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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



TALES OF WAR 



TALES OF WAR 



BY 
LORD DUNSANY 




BOSTON 

LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 
1918 



Copyright, 1918, 
BY LITTLE, BKOWN, AND COMPANY. 

All rights reserved 



Nortoooli 
Set up and electrotypcd by J. S. Gushing Co., Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 



College 

Library 

PR 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

I THE PRAYER OF THE MEN OF DALES- 

WOOD ....... 1 

H THE ROAD ...... 15 

III AN IMPERIAL MONUMENT ... 20 

IV A WALK TO THE TRENCHES ... 25 
V A WALK IN PICARDY .... 30 

VI WHAT HAPPENED ON THE NIGHT OF THE 

TWENTY-SEVENTH .... 35 

VII STANDING To . . . . . .41 

VIII THE SPLENDID TRAVELLER ... 44 

IX ENGLAND ...... 48 

X SHELLS ....... 53 

XI Two DEGREES OF ENVY ... 58 

XII THE MASTER OF No MAN'S LAND . 62 

XIII WEEDS AND WIRE ..... 65 

XIV SPRING IN ENGLAND AND FLANDERS . 69 
XV THE NIGHTMARE COUNTRIES . . .73 

XVI SPRING AND THE KAISER ... 78 
XVII Two SONGS ...... 81 

XVIII THE PUNISHMENT . . . .84 

XIX THE ENGLISH SPIRIT .... 92 

v 



1157481 



VI 



CONTENTS 



XX AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE CAUSES AND 

ORIGIN OF THE WAR .... 98 

XXI LOST 106 

XXII THE LAST MIRAGE . . . .110 

XXIII A FAMOUS MAN 115 

XXIV THE OASES OF DEATH . . . .120 
XXV ANGLO-SAXON TYRANNY . . . .123 

XXVI MEMORIES 128 

XXVH THE MOVEMENT 133 

XXVIH NATURE'S CAD 139 

XXIX THE HOME OF HERR SCHNITZELHAASER 146 

XXX A DEED OF MERCY .... 154 

XXXI LAST SCENE OF ALL .... 158 

XXXII OLD ENGLAND 162 



THE PRAYER OF THE MEN OF 
DALESWOOD 

HE said: 'There were only twenty 
houses in Daleswood. A place you 
would scarcely have heard of. A village 
up top of the hills. 

"When the war came there was no more 
than thirty men there between sixteen and 
forty-five. They all went. 

'They all kept together ; same battalion, 
same platoon. They was like that in Dales- 
wood. Used to call the hop pickers foreign- 
ers, the ones that come from London. They 
used to go past Daleswood, some of them, 
every year, on their way down to the hop 
fields. Foreigners they used to call them. 
Kept very much to themselves, did the 
Daleswood people. Big woods all round 
them. 

i 



2 TALES OF WAR 

"Very lucky they was, the Daleswood 
men. They'd lost no more than five killed 
and a good sprinkling of wounded. But all 
the wounded was back again with the pla- 
toon. This was up to March when the big 
offensive started. 

"It came very sudden. No bombard- 
ment to speak of. Just a burst of Tok 
Emmas going off all together and lifting 
the front trench clean out of it ; then a 
barrage behind, and the Boche pouring over 
in thousands. 'Our luck is holding good/ 
the Daleswood men said, for their trench 
wasn't getting it at all. But the platoon 
on their right got it. And it sounded bad 
too a long way beyond that. No one could 
be quite sure. But the platoon on their 
right was getting it : that was sure enough. 

"And then the Boche got through them 
altogether. A message came to say so. 
* How are things on the right ? ' they said to 
the runner. 'Bad,' said the runner, and 
he went back, though Lord knows what he 
went back to. The Boche was through right 



THE MEN OF DALESWOOD 3 

enough. 'We'll have to make a defensive 
flank,' said the platoon commander. He 
was a Dales wood man too. Came from 
the big farm. He slipped down a com- 
munication trench with a few men, mostly 
bombers. And they reckoned they 
wouldn't see any of them any more, for 
the Boche was on the right, thick as star- 
lings. 

: 'The bullets were snapping over thick 
to keep them down while the Boche went 
on, on the right : machine guns, of course. 
The barrage was screaming well over and 
dropping far back, and their wire was still 
all right just in front of them, when they 
put up a head to look. There was the 
left platoon of the battalion. One doesn't 
bother, somehow, so much about another 
battalion as one's own. One's own gets 
sort of homely. And there they were won- 
dering how their own officer was getting 
on, and the few fellows with them, on his 
defensive flank. The bombs were going 
off thick. All the Daleswood men were 



4 TALES OP WAR 

firing half right. It sounded from the 
noise as if it couldn't last long, as if it 
would soon be decisive, and the battle be 
won, or lost, just there on the right, and 
perhaps the war ended. They didn't notice 
the left. Nothing to speak of. 

'Then a runner came from the left. 
' Hullo ! ' they said, ' How are things over 
there?' 

" ' The Boche is through,' he said. 
'Where's the officer?' 'Through!' they 
said. It didn't seem possible. However 
did he do that? they thought. And the 
runner went on to the right to look for the 
officer. 

"And then the barrage shifted further 
back. The shells still screamed over them, 
but the bursts were further away. That 
is always a relief. Probably they felt it. 
But it was bad for all that. Very bad. 
It meant the Boche was well past them. 
They realized it after a while. 

"They and their bit of wire were somehow 
just between two waves of attack. Like 



THE MEN OF DALESWOOD 5 

a bit of stone on the beach with the sea 
coming in. A platoon was nothing to the 
Boche ; nothing much perhaps just then 
to anybody. But it was the whole of 
Daleswood for one long generation. 

'The youngest full-grown man they had 
left behind was fifty, and some one had 
heard that he had died since the war. There 
was no one else in Daleswood but women 
and children, and boys up to seventeen. 

"The bombing had stopped on their 
right ; everything was quieter, and the 
barrage further away. When they began 
to realize what that meant they began to 
talk of Daleswood. And then they thought 
that when all of them were gone there would 
be nobody who would remember Dales- 
wood just as it used to be. For places 
alter a little, woods grow, and changes 
come, trees get cut down, old people die ; 
new houses are built now and then in 
place of a yew tree, or any old thing, that 
used to be there before ; and one way or 
another the old things go ; and all the 



6 TALES OF WAR 

time you have people thinking that the 
old times were best, and the old ways 
when they were young. And the Dales- 
wood men were beginning to say, 'Who 
would there be to remember it just as it 
was ? ' 

"There was no gas, the wind being wrong 
for it, so they were able to talk, that is if 
they shouted, for the bullets alone made 
as much noise as breaking up an old shed, 
crisper like, more like new timber break- 
ing; and the shells of course was howling 
all the time, that is the barrage that was 
bursting far back. The trench still stank 
of them. 

: 'They said that one of them must go 
over and put his hands up, or run away if 
he could, whichever he liked, and when the 
war was over he would go to some writing 
fellow, one of those what makes a living 
by it, and tell him all about Daleswood, 
just as it used to be, and he would write 
it out proper and there it would be for al- 
ways. They all agreed to that. And then 



THE MEN OF DALESWOOD 7 

they talked a bit, as well as they could 
above that awful screeching, to try and 
decide who it should be. The eldest, they 
said, would know Daleswood best. But 
he said, and they came to agree with him, 
that it would be a sort of waste to save the 
life of a man what had had his good time, 
and they ought to send the youngest, and 
they would tell him all they knew of 
Daleswood before his time, and every- 
thing would be written down just the same 
and the old time remembered. 

'They had the idea somehow that the 
women thought more of their own man 
and their children and the washing and 
what-not ; and that the deep woods and 
the great hills beyond, and the ploughing 
and the harvest and snaring rabbits in 
winter and the sports in the village in 
summer, and the hundred things that pass 
the time of one generation in an old, old 
place like Daleswood, meant less to them 
than the men. Anyhow they did not quite 
seem to trust them with the past. 



8 TALES OF WAR 

"The youngest of them was only just 
eighteen. That was Dick. They told him 
to get out and put his hands up and be 
quick getting across, as soon as they had 
told him one or two things about the old 
time in Daleswood that a youngster like 
him wouldn't know. 

"Well, Dick said he wasn't going, and 
was making trouble about it, so they told 
Fred to go. Back, they told him, was 
best, and come up behind the Boche with 
his hands up ; they would be less likely to 
shoot when it was back towards their own 
supports. 

"Fred wouldn't go, and so on with the 
rest. Well, they didn't waste time quarrel- 
ling, time being scarce, and they said what 
was to be done? There was chalk where 
they were, low down in the trench, a little 
brown clay on the top of it. There was a 
great block of it loose near a shelter. They 
said they would carve with their knives 
on the big bowlder of chalk all that they 
knew about Daleswood. They would write 



THE MEN OF DALESWOOD 9 

where it was and just what it was like, 
and they would write something of all 
those little things that pass with a genera- 
tion. They reckoned on having the time 
for it. It would take a direct hit with 
something large, what they call big stuff, 
to do any harm to that bowlder. They had 
no confidence in paper, it got so messed 
up when you were hit; besides, the Boche 
had been using thermite. Burns, that does. 

''They'd one or two men that were 
handy at carving chalk; used to do the 
regimental crest and pictures of Hinden- 
burg, and all that. They decided they'd 
do it in reliefs. 

'They started smoothing the chalk. 
They had nothing more to do but just 
to think what to write. It was a great 
big bowlder with plenty of room on it. 
The Boche seemed not to know that they 
hadn't killed the Daleswood men, just as 
the sea mightn't know that one stone 
stayed dry at the coming in of the tide. 
A gap between two divisions probably. 



10 TALES OF WAR 

"Harry wanted to tell of the woods 
more than anything. He was afraid they 
might cut them down because of the war, 
and no one would know of the larks they 
had had there as boys. Wonderful old 
woods they were, with a lot of Spanish 
chestnut growing low, and tall old oaks 
over it. Harry wanted them to write 
down what the foxgloves were like in the 
wood at the end of summer, standing there 
in the evening, 'Great solemn rows,' he 
said, 'all odd in the dusk. All odd in the 
evening, going there after work ; and makes 
you think of fairies.' There was lots of 
things about those woods, he said, that 
ought to be put down if people were to 
remember Daleswood as it used to be 
when they knew it. What were the good 
old days without those woods ? he said. 

"But another wanted to tell of the time 
when they cut the hay with scythes, 
working all those long days at the end of 
June ; there would be no more of that, he 
said, with machines come in and all. 



THE MEN OF DALESWOOD 11 

"There was room to tell of all that and 
the woods too, said the others, so long as 
they put it short like. 

"And another wanted to tell of the 
valleys beyond the wood, far afield where 
the men went working; the women would 
remember the hay. The great valleys he'd 
tell of. It was they that made Daleswood. 
The valleys beyond the wood and the 
twilight on them in summer. Slopes 
covered with mint and thyme, all solemn 
at evening. A hare on them perhaps, 
sitting as though they were his, then 
lolloping slowly away. It didn't seem 
from the way he told of those old valleys 
that he thought they could ever be to 
other folk what they were to the Dales- 
wood men in the days he remembered. 
He spoke of them as though there were 
something in them, besides the mint and 
the thyme and the twilight and hares, 
that would not stay after these men were 
gone, though he did not say what it was. 
Scarcely hinted it even. 



12 TALES OF WAR 

"And still the Boche did nothing to the 
Daleswood men. The bullets had ceased 
altogether. That made it much quieter. 
The shells still snarled over, bursting far, 
far away. 

"And Bob said tell of Daleswood itself, 
the old village, with queer chimneys, of 
red brick, in the wood. There weren't 
houses like that nowadays. They'd be 
building new ones and spoiling it, likely, 
after the war. And that was all he had 
to say. 

"And nobody was for not pitting down 
anything any one said. It was all to go 
in on the chalk, as much as would go in 
the time. For they all sort of understood 
that the Daleswood of what they called the 
good old time was just the memories that 
those few men had of the days they had 
spent there together. And that was the 
Daleswood they loved, and wanted folks 
to remember. They were all agreed as 
to that. And then they said how was 
they to write it down. And when it came 



THE MEN OF DALESWOOD 13 

to writing there was so much to be said, 
not spread over a lot of paper I don't 
mean, but going down so deep like, that 
it seemed to them how their own talk 
wouldn't be good enough to say it. And 
they knew no other, and didn't know what 
to do. I reckon they'd been reading maga- 
zines and thought that writing had to be 
like that muck. Anyway, they didn't 
know what to do. I reckon their talk 
would be good enough for Daleswood when 
they loved Daleswood like that. But they 
didn't, and they were puzzled. 

"The Boche was miles away behind them 
now, and his barrage with him. Still in 
front he did nothing. 

"They talked it all over and over, did 
the Daleswood men. They tried every- 
thing. But somehow or other they couldn't 
get near what they wanted to say about 
old summer evenings. Time wore on. The 
bowlder was smooth and ready, and that 
whole generation of Daleswood men could 
find no words to say what was in their 



14 TALES OF WAR 

hearts about Daleswood. There wasn't 
time to waste. And the only thing they 
thought of in the end was 'Please, God, 
remember Daleswood just like it used to 
be.* And Bill and Harry carved that on 
the chalk between them. 

"What happened to the Daleswood men ? 
Why, nothing. There come one of them 
counter-attacks, a regular bastard for Jerry. 
The French made it and did the Boche in 
proper. I got the story from a man with a 
hell of a great big hammer, long after- 
wards when that trench was well behind our 
line. He was smashing up a huge great 
chunk of chalk because he said they all 
felt it was so damn silly." 



II 

THE ROAD 

THE battery Sergeant-Major was prac- 
tically asleep. He was all worn out 
by the continuous roar of bombardments 
that had been shaking the dugouts and 
dazing his brains for weeks. He was pretty 
well fed up. 

The officer commanding the battery, a 
young man in a very neat uniform and of 
particularly high birth, came up and spat 
in his face. The Sergeant-Major sprang 
to attention, received an order, and took 
a stick at once and beat up the tired men. 
For a message had come to the battery 
that some English (God punish them !) 
were making a road at X. 

The gun was fired. It was one of those 
unlucky shots that come on days when 
our luck is out. The shell, a 5.9, lit in 

15 



16 TALES OF WAR 

the midst of the British working party. 
It did the Germans little good. It did 
not stop the deluge of shells that was 
breaking up their guns and was driving 
misery down like a wedge into their spirits. 
It did not improve the temper of the officer 
commanding the battery, so that the men 
suffered as acutely as ever under the 
Sergeant-Major. But it stopped the road 
for that day. 

I seemed to see that road going on in a 
dream. 

Another working party came along next 
day, with clay pipes and got to work ; 
and next day and the day after. Shells 
came, but went short or over; the shell 
holes were neatly patched up ; the road 
went on. Here and there a tree had to be 
cut, but not often, not many of them were 
left ; it was mostly digging and grubbing 
up roots, and pushing wheelbarrows along 
planks and duck-boards, and filling up with 
stones. Sometimes the engineers would 
come : that was when streams were crossed. 



THE ROAD 17 

The engineers made their bridges, and the 
infantry working party went on with the 
digging and laying down stones. It was 
monotonous work. Contours altered, soil 
altered, even the rock beneath it, but the 
desolation never; they always worked in 
desolation and thunder. And so the road 
went on. 

They came to a wide river. They went 
through a great forest. They passed the 
ruins of what must have been quite fine 
towns, big prosperous towns with uni- 
versities in them. I saw the infantry 
working party with their stumpy clay pipes, 
in my dream, a long way on from where 
that shell had lit, which stopped the road 
for a day. And behind them curious 
changes came over the road at X. You 
saw the infantry going up to the trenches, 
and going back along it into reserve. They 
marched at first, but in a few days they were 
going up in motors, grey busses with 
shuttered windows. And then the guns 
came along it, miles and miles of guns, 



18 TALES OF WAR 

following after the thunder which was 
further off over the hills. And then one 
day the cavalry came by. Then stores 
in wagons, the thunder muttering further 
and further away. I saw farm-carts going 
down the road at X. And then one day 
all manner of horses and traps and laugh- 
ing people, farmers and women and boys 
all going by to X. There was going to be 
a fair. 

And far away the road was growing 
longer and longer amidst, as always, deso- 
lation and thunder. And one day far 
away from X the road grew very fine 
indeed. It was going proudly through a 
mighty city, sweeping in like a river; you 
would not think that it ever remembered 
duck-boards. There were great palaces 
there, with huge armorial eagles blazoned 
in stone, and all along each side of the road 
was a row of statues of kings. And going 
down the road towards the palace, past the 
statues of the kings, a tired procession 
was riding, full of the flags of the Allies. 



THE ROAD 19 

And I looked at the flags in my dream, 
out of national pride to see whether we 
led, or whether France or America. Amer- 
ica went before us, but I could not see the 
Union Jack in the van, nor the Tricolour 
either, nor the Stars and Stripes : Belgium 
led and then Serbia, they that had suffered 
most. 

And before the flags, and before the 
generals, I saw marching along on foot 
the ghosts of the working party that were 
killed at X, gazing about them in admira- 
tion as they went, at the great city and at 
the palaces. And one man, wondering at 
the Sieges Allee, turned round to the 
Lance Corporal in charge of the party : 
"That is a fine road that we made, Frank," 
he said. 



Ill 

AN IMPERIAL MONUMENT 

IT is an early summer's morning: the 
dew is all over France : the train is 
going eastwards. They are quite slow, 
those troop trains, and there are few em- 
bankments or cuttings in those flat plains, 
so that you seem to be meandering along 
through the very life of the people. The 
roads come right down to the railways, 
and the sun is shining brightly over the 
farms and the people going to work along 
the roads, so that you can see their faces 
clearly as the slow train passes them by. 

They are all women and boys that work 
on the farms; sometimes perhaps you see 
a very old man, but nearly always women 
and boys; they are out working early. 
They straighten up from their work as we 
go by and lift their hands to bless us. 

20 



AN IMPERIAL MONUMENT 21 

We pass by long rows of the tall French 
poplars, their branches cut away all up 
the trunk, leaving only an odd round tuft 
at the top of the tree; but little branches 
are growing all up the trunk now, and the 
poplars are looking unkempt. It would 
be the young men who would cut the 
branches of the poplars. They would cut 
them for some useful thrifty purpose that 
I do not know ; and then they would cut 
them because they were always cut that 
way, as long ago as the times of the old 
men's tales about France ; but chiefly, I 
expect, because youth likes to climb diffi- 
cult trees ; that is why they are clipped so 
very high. And the trunks are all un- 
kempt now. 

We go on by many farms with their 
shapely red-roofed houses; they stand 
there, having the air of the homes of an 
ancient people ; they would not be out 
of keeping with any romance that might 
come, or any romance that has come in 
the long story of France, and the girls of 



22 TALES OF WAR 

those red-roofed houses work all alone in 
the fields. 

We pass by many willows and come to a 
great marsh. In a punt on some open 
water an old man is angling. We come to 
fields again, and then to a deep wood. 
France smiles about us in the open sunlight. 

But towards evening we pass over the 
border of this pleasant country into a 
tragical land of destruction and gloom. 
It is not only that murder has walked 
here to and fro for years, until all the fields 
are ominous with it, but the very fields 
themselves have been mutilated until they 
are unlike fields, the woods have been 
shattered right down to the anemones, and 
the houses have been piled in heaps of 
rubbish, and the heaps of rubbish have 
been scattered by shells. We see no more 
trees, no more houses, no more women, no 
cattle even now. We have come to the 
abomination of desolation. And over it 
broods, and will probably brood for ever, 
accursed by men and accursed by the very 



AN IMPERIAL MONUMENT 23 

fields, the hyena-like memory of the Kaiser, 
who has whitened so many bones. 

It may be some satisfaction to his selfish- 
ness to know that the monument to it 
cannot pass away, to know that the shell 
holes go too deep to be washed away by the 
healing rains of years, to know that the 
wasted German generations will not in 
centuries gather up what has been spilt 
on the Somme, or France recover in the 
sunshine of many summers from all the 
misery that his devilish folly has caused. 
It is likely to be to such as him a source of 
satisfaction, for the truly vain care only 
to be talked of in many mouths ; they 
hysterically love to be thought of, and the 
notice of mankind is to them a mirror which 
reflects their futile postures. The admira- 
tion of fools they love, and the praise of a 
slavelike people, but they would sooner be 
hated by mankind than be ignored and 
forgotten as is their due. And the truly 
selfish care only for their imperial selves. 

Let us leave him to pass in thought 



24 TALES OF WAR 

from ruin to ruin, from wasted field to 
field, from crater to crater ; let us leave 
his fancy haunting cemeteries in the stricken 
lands of the world, to find what glee he 
can in this huge manifestation of his im- 
perial will. 

We neither know to what punishment he 
moves nor can even guess what fitting one 
is decreed. But the time is surely ap- 
pointed and the place. Poor trifler with 
Destiny, who ever had so much to dread ? 



IV 
A WALK TO THE TRENCHES 

TO stand at the beginning of a road is 
always wonderful ; for on all roads 
before they end experience lies, sometimes 
adventure. And a trench, even as a road, 
has its beginnings somewhere. In the heart 
of a very strange country you find them 
suddenly. A trench may begin in the 
ruins of a house, may run up out of a ditch ; 
may be cut into a rise of ground sheltered 
under a hill, and is built in many ways by 
many men. As to who is the best builder 
of trenches there can be little doubt, and 
any British soldier would probably admit 
that for painstaking work and excellence 
of construction there are few to rival Von 
Hindenburg. His Hindenburg line is a 
model of neatness and comfort, and it 

25 



26 TALES OF WAR 

would be only a very ungrateful British 
soldier who would deny it. 

You come to the trenches out of strangely 
wasted lands, you come perhaps to a wood 
in an agony of contortions, black, branch- 
less, sepulchral trees, and then no more 
trees at all. The country after that is 
still called Picardy or Belgium, still has its 
old name on the map as though it smiled 
there yet, sheltering cities and hamlet 
and radiant with orchards and gardens, 
but the country named Belgium or what- 
ever it be is all gone away, and there 
stretches for miles instead one of the world's 
great deserts, a thing to take its place no 
longer with smiling lands, but with Sahara, 
Gobi, Kalahari, and the Karoo ; not to 
be thought of as Picardy, but more suit- 
ably to be named the Desert of Wilhelm. 
Through these sad lands one goes to come 
to the trenches. Overhead floats until it 
is chased away an aeroplane with little 
black crosses, that you can scarcely see 
at his respectful height, peering to see what 



A WALK TO THE TRENCHES 27 

more harm may be done in the desolation 
and ruin. Little flashes sparkle near him, 
white puffs spread out round the flashes : 
and he goes, and our airmen go away after 
him ; black puffs break out round our air- 
men. Up in the sky you hear a faint tap- 
tapping. They have got their machine guns 
working. 

You see many things there that are 
unusual in deserts, a good road, a railway, 
perhaps a motor bus ; you see what was 
obviously once a village, and hear English 
songs, but no one who has not seen it can 
imagine the country in which the trenches 
lie, unless he bear a desert clearly in mind, 
a desert that has moved from its place on 
the map by some enchantment of wizardry, 
and come down on a smiling country. 
Would it not be glorious to be a Kaiser and 
be able to do things like that ? 

Past all manner of men, past no trees, 
no hedges, no fields, but only one field from 
skyline to skyline that has been harrowed 
by war, one goes with companions that 



28 TALES OF WAR 

this event in our history has drawn from all 
parts of the earth. On that road you may 
hear all in one walk where is the best place 
to get lunch in the City ; you may hear how 
they laid a drag for some Irish pack, and 
what the Master said ; you may hear a 
farmer lamenting over the harm that rhi- 
noceroses do to his coffee crop ; you may 
hear Shakespeare quoted and La Vie Pari- 
sienne. 

In the village you see a lot of German 
orders, with their silly notes of exclama- 
tion after them, written up on notice boards 
among the ruins. Ruins and German 
orders. That turning movement of Von 
Kluck's near Paris in 1914 was a mistake. 
Had he not done it we might have had 
ruins and German orders everywhere. And 
yet T Von Kluck may comfort himself with 
the thought that it is not by his mistakes 
that Destiny shapes the world : such a 
nightmare as a world-wide German domina- 
tion can have had no place amongst the 
scheme of things. 



A WALK TO THE TRENCHES 29 

Beyond the village the batteries are 
thick. A great howitzer near the road lifts 
its huge muzzle slowly, fires and goes down 
again, and lifts again and fires. It is as 
though Polyphemus had lifted his huge 
shape slowly, leisurely, from the hillside 
where he was sitting, and hurled the 
mountain top, and sat down again. If he 
is firing pretty regularly you are sure to 
get the blast of one of them as you go by, 
and it can be a very strong wind indeed. 
One's horse, if one is riding, does not very 
much like it, but I have seen horses far 
more frightened by a puddle on the road 
when coming home from hunting in the 
evening : one 12-inch howitzer more or 
less in France calls for no great attention 
from man or beast. 

And so we come in sight of the support 
trenches where we are to dwell for a week 
before we go on for another mile over the 
hills, where the black fountains are rising. 



A WALK IN PICARDY 

PICTURE any village you know. In 
such a village as that the trench 
begins. That is to say, there are duck- 
boards along a ditch, and the ditch runs 
into a trench. Only the village is no 
longer there. It was like some village you 
know, though perhaps a little merrier, 
because it was further south and nearer 
the sun ; but it is all gone now. And the 
trench runs out of the ruins, and is called 
Windmill Avenue. There must have been 
a windmill standing there once. 

When you come from the ditch to the 
trench you leave the weeds and soil and 
trunks of willows and see the bare chalk. 
At the top of those two white walls is a 
foot or so of brown clay. The brown clay 
grows deeper as you come to the hills, 

30 



A WALK IN PICARDY 31 

until the chalk has disappeared altogether. 
Our alliance with France is new in the 
history of man, but it is an old, old union 
in the history of the hills. White chalk 
with brown clay on top has dipped and 
gone under the sea ; and the hills of Sussex 
and Kent are one with the hills of Picardy. 

And so you may pass through the chalk 
that lies in that desolate lane with memories 
of more silent and happier hills ; it all 
depends on what the chalk means to you : 
you may be unfamiliar with it and in that 
case you will not notice it ; or you may have 
been born among those thyme-scented hills 
and yet have no errant fancies, so that you 
will not think of the hills that watched 
you as a child, but only keep your mind 
on the business in hand ; that is probably 
best. 

You come after a while to other trenches : 
notice boards guide you, and you keep to 
Windmill Avenue. You go by Pear Lane, 
Cherry Lane, and Plum Lane. Pear trees, 
cherry trees and plum trees must have 



32 TALES OF WAR 

grown there. You are passing through 
either wild lanes banked with briar, over 
which these various trees peered one by 
one and showered their blossoms down at 
the end of spring, and girls would have 
gathered the fruit when it ripened, with 
the help of tall young men ; or else you are 
passing through an old walled garden, and 
the pear and the cherry and plum were 
growing against the wall, looking south- 
wards all through the summer. There is 
no way whatever of telling which it was ; 
it is all one in war ; whatever was there is 
gone; there remain to-day, and survive, 
the names of those three trees only. We 
come next to Apple Lane. You must not 
think that an apple tree ever grew there, 
for we trace here the hand of the wit, who 
by naming Plum Lane's neighbour "Apple 
Lane" merely commemorates the insepa- 
rable connection that plum has with apple 
forever in the minds of all who go to 
modern war. For by mixing apple with 
plum the manufacturer sees the oppor- 



A WALK IN PICARDY 33 

tunity of concealing more turnip in the 
jam, as it were, at the junction of the two 
forces, than he might be able to do with- 
out this unholy alliance. 

We come presently to the dens of those 
who trouble us (but only for our own good) , 
the dugouts of the trench mortar bat- 
teries. It is noisy when they push up 
close to the front line and play for half an 
hour or so with their rivals : the enemy 
sends stuff back, our artillery join in ; it 
is as though, while you were playing a 
game of croquet, giants hundreds of feet 
high, some of them friendly, some un- 
friendly, carnivorous and hungry, came 
and played football on your croquet lawn. 

We go on past Battalion Headquarters, 
and past the dugouts and shelters of 
various people having business with His- 
tory, past stores of bombs and the many 
other ingredients with which history is 
made, past men coming down who are 
very hard to pass, for the width of two men 
and two packs is the width of a communi- 



34 TALES OF WAR 

cation trench and sometimes an inch over; 
past two men carrying a flying pig slung 
on a pole between them ; by many turn- 
ings ; and Windmill Avenue brings you at 
last to Company Headquarters in a dug- 
out that Hindenburg made with his Ger- 
man thoroughness. 

And there, after a while, descends the 
Tok Emma man, the officer commanding 
a trench mortar battery, and is given per- 
chance a whiskey and water, and sits on 
the best empty box that we have to offer, 
and lights one of our cigarettes. 

"There's going to be a bit of a strafe at 
5.30," he says. 



VI 

WHAT HAPPENED ON THE NIGHT 
OF THE TWENTY-SEVENTH 

THE night of the twenty-seventh was 
Dick Cheeser's first night on sentry. 
The night was far gone when he went on 
duty ; in another hour they would stand to. 
Dick Cheeser had camouflaged his age 
when he enlisted : he was barely eighteen. 
A wonderfully short time ago he was 
quite a little boy ; now he was in a front- 
line trench. It hadn't seemed that things 
were going to alter like that. Dick Cheeser 
was a ploughboy : long brown furrows 
over haughty, magnificent downs seemed 
to stretch away into the future as far as 
his mind could see. No narrow outlook 
either, for the life of nations depends upon 
those brown furrows. But there are the 
bigger furrows that Mars makes, the long 

35 



36 TALES OF WAR 

brown trenches of war; the life of nations 
depends on these too ; Dick Cheeser had 
never pictured these. He had heard talk 
about a big navy and a lot of Dread- 
noughts ; silly nonsense he called it. What 
did one want a big navy for ? To keep 
the Germans out, some people said. But 
the Germans weren't coming. If they 
wanted to come, why didn't they come? 
Anybody could see that they never did 
come. Some of Dick Cheeser's pals had 
votes. 

And so he had never pictured any change 
from ploughing the great downs ; and here 
was war at last, and here was he. The 
Corporal showed him where to stand, told 
him to keep a good lookout and left him. 

And there was Dick Cheeser alone in the 
dark with an army in front of him, eighty 
yards away: and, if all tales were true, 
a pretty horrible army. 

The night was awfully still. I use the 
adverb not as Dick Cheeser would have used 
it. The stillness awed him. There had 



THE TWENTY-SEVENTH 37 

not been a shell all night. He put his head 
up over the parapet and waited. Nobody 
fired at him. He felt that the night was 
waiting for him. He heard voices going 
along the trench : some one said it was a 
black night : the voices died away. A 
mere phrase ; the night wasn't black at 
all, it was grey. Dick Cheeser was star- 
ing at it, and the night was staring back 
at him, and seemed to be threatening 
him ; it was grey, grey as an old cat that 
they used to have at home, and as artful. 
Yes, thought Dick Cheeser, it was an art- 
ful night ; that was what was wrong with it. 
If shells had come or the Germans, or any- 
thing at all, you would know how to take 
it ; but that quiet mist over huge valleys, 
and stillness ! Anything might happen. 
Dick waited and waited, and the night 
waited too. He felt they were watching 
each other, the night and he. He felt 
that each was crouching. His mind slipped 
back to the woods on hills he knew. He 
was watching with eyes and ears and 



38 TALES OF WAR 

imagination to see what would happen in 
No Man's Land under that ominous mist : 
but his mind took a peep for all that at 
the old woods that he knew. He pictured 
himself, he and a band of boys, chasing 
squirrels again in the summer. They used 
to chase a squirrel from tree to tree, 
throwing stones, till they tired it: and 
then they might hit it with a stone : 
usually not. Sometimes the squirrel would 
hide, and a boy would have to climb after 
it. It was great sport, thought Dick 
Cheeser. What a pity he hadn't had a 
catapult in those days, he thought. Some- 
how the years when he had not had a cata- 
pult seemed all to be wasted years. With 
a catapult one might get the squirrel al- 
most at once, with luck : and what a 
great thing that would be. All the other 
boys would come round to look at the 
squirrel, and to look at the catapult, and 
ask him how he did it. He wouldn't 
have to say much, there would be the 
squirrel ; no boasting would be necessary 



THE TWENTY-SEVENTH 39 

with the squirrel lying dead. It might 
spread to other things, even rabbits ; al- 
most anything, in fact. He would cer- 
tainly get a catapult first thing when he 
got home. A little wind blew in the night, 
too cold for summer. It blew away, as it 
were, the summer of Dick's memories; 
blew away hills and woods and squirrel. 
It made for a moment a lane in the mist 
over No Man's Land. Dick Cheeser peered 
down it, but it closed again. "No," Night 
seemed to say, "you don't guess my secret." 
And the awful hush intensified. "What 
would they do?" thought the sentry. 
"What were they planning in all those 
miles of silence ? " Even the Verys were 
few. When one went up, far hills seemed 
to sit and brood over the valley : their 
black shapes seemed to know what would 
happen in the mist and seemed sworn not 
to say. The rocket faded, and the hills 
went back into mystery again, and Dick 
Cheeser peered level again over the omi- 
nous valley. 



40 TALES OF WAR 

All the dangers and sinister shapes and 
evil destinies, lurking between the armies 
in that mist, that the sentry faced that 
night cannot be told until the history of 
the war is written by a historian who can 
see the mind of the soldier. Not a shell 
fell all night, no German stirred ; Dick 
Cheeser was relieved at "Stand to" and 
his comrades stood to beside him, and soon 
it was wide, golden, welcome dawn. 

And for all the threats of night the thing 
that happened was one that the lonely 
sentry had never foreseen : in the hour of 
his watching Dick Cheeser, though scarcely 
eighteen, became a full-grown man. 



VII 

STANDING TO 

ONE cannot say that one time in the 
trenches is any more tense than 
another. One cannot take any one par- 
ticular hour and call it, in modern non- 
sensical talk, "typical hour in the trenches." 
The routine of the trenches has gone on 
too long for that. The tensest hour ought 
to be half an hour before dawn, the hour 
when attacks are expected and men stand 
to. It is an old convention of war that 
that is the dangerous hour, the hour when 
defenders are weakest and attack most to 
be feared. For darkness favours the at- 
tackers then as night favours the lion, and 
then dawn comes and they can hold their 
gains in the light. Therefore in every 
trench in every war the garrison is pre- 
pared in that menacing hour, watching in 

41 



42 TALES OF WAR 

greater numbers than they do the whole 
night through. As the first lark lifts from 
meadows they stand there in the dark. 
Whenever there is any war in any part of 
the world you may be sure that at that 
hour men crowd to their parapets : when 
sleep is deepest in cities they are watch- 
ing there. 

When the dawn shimmers a little, and 
a grey light comes, and widens, and all of 
a sudden figures become distinct, and the 
hour of the attack that is always expected 
is gone, then perhaps some faint feeling of 
gladness stirs the newest of the recruits ; 
but chiefly the hour passes like all the other 
hours there, an unnoticed fragment of the 
long, long routine that is taken with resig- 
nation mingled with jokes. 

Dawn comes shy with a wind scarce 
felt, dawn faint and strangely perceptible, 
feeble and faint in the east while men still 
watch the darkness. When did the dark- 
ness go ? When did the dawn grow golden ? 
It happened as in a moment, a moment 



STANDING TO 43 

you did not see. Guns flash no longer : 
the sky is gold and serene ; dawn stands 
there like Victory that will shine, on one 
of these years when the Kaiser goes the 
way of the older curses of earth. Dawn, 
and the men unfix bayonets as they step 
down from the fire-step and clean their 
rifles with pull-throughs. Not all together, 
but section by section, for it would not do 
for a whole company to be caught clean- 
ing their rifles at dawn, or at any other 
time. 

They rub off the mud or the rain that 
has come at night on their rifles, they de- 
tach the magazine and see that its spring 
is working, they take out the breechblock 
and oil it, and put back everything clean : 
and another night is gone; it is one day 
nearer victory. 



A 



VIII 

THE SPLENDID TRAVELLER 
TRAVELLER threw his cloak over 



his shoulder and came down slopes 
of gold in El Dorado. From incredible 
heights he came. He came from where 
the peaks of the pure gold mountain shone 
a little red with the sunset ; from crag to 
crag of gold he stepped down slowly. 
Sheer out of romance he came through the 
golden evening. 

It was only an incident of every day; 
the sun had set or was setting, the air 
turned chill, and a battalion's bugles were 
playing "Retreat" when this knightly 
stranger, a British aeroplane, dipped, and 
went homeward over the infantry. That 
beautiful evening call, and the golden 
cloud bank towering, and that adventurer 
coming home in the cold, happening all 

44 



THE SPLENDID TRAVELLER 45 

together, revealed in a flash the fact (which 
hours of thinking sometimes will not bring) 
that we live in such a period of romance 
as the troubadours would have envied. 

He came, that British airman, over the 
border, sheer over No Man's Land and the 
heads of the enemy and the mysterious 
land behind, snatching the secrets that 
the enemy would conceal. Either he had 
defeated the German airmen who would 
have stopped his going, or they had not 
dared to try. Who knows what he had 
done? He had been abroad and was 
coming home in the evening, as he did 
every day. 

Even when all its romance has been 
sifted from an age (as the centuries sift) 
and set apart from the trivial, and when 
all has been stored by the poets ; even 
then what has any of them more romantic 
than these adventurers in the evening air, 
coming home in the twilight with the 
black shells bursting below ? 

The infantry look up with the same vague 



46 TALES OF WAR 

wonder with which children look at dragon 
flies; sometimes they do not look at all, 
for all that comes in France has its part 
with the wonder of a terrible story as well 
as with the incidents of the day, incidents 
that recur year in and year out, too often 
for us to notice them. If a part of the 
moon were to fall off in the sky and come 
tumbling to earth, the comment on the 
lips of the imperturbable British watchers 
that have seen so much would be, "Hullo, 
what is Jerry up to now ? " 

And so the British aeroplane glides home 
in the evening, and the light fades from the 
air, and what is left of the poplars grows 
dark against the sky, and what is left of 
the houses grows more mournful in the 
gloaming, and night comes, and with it 
the sounds of thunder, for the airman has 
given his message to the artillery. It is 
as though Hermes had gone abroad sail- 
ing upon his sandals, and had found some 
bad land below those winged feet wherein 
men did evil and kept not the laws of gods 



THE SPLENDID TRAVELLER 47 

or men ; and he had brought his message 
back and the gods were angry. 

For the wars we fight to-day are not like 
other wars, and the wonders of them are 
unlike other wonders. If we do not see 
in them the saga and epic, how shall we 
tell of them ? 



IX 
ENGLAND 

" A ND then we used to have sausages," 
.iV said the Sergeant. 

"And mashed ?" said the Private. 

"Yes," said the Sergeant, "and beer. 
And then we used to go home. It was 
grand in the evenings. We used to go 
along a lane that was full of them wild 
roses. And then we come to the road 
where the houses were. They all had 
their bit of a garden, every house." 

"Nice, I calls it, a garden," the Private 
said. 

"Yes," said the Sergeant, "they all had 
their garden. It came right down to the 
road. Wooden palings : none of that there 
wire." 

"I hates wire," said the Private. 

"They didn't have none of it," the 

48 



ENGLAND 49 

N. C. O. went on. "The gardens came 
right down to the road, looking lovely. 
Old Billy Weeks he had them tall pale- 
blue flowers in his garden nearly as high 
as a man." 

"Hollyhocks?" said the Private. 

"No, they wasn't hollyhocks. Lovely 
they were. We used to stop and look at 
them, going by every evening. He had a 
path up the middle of his garden paved 
with red tiles, Billy Weeks had ; and these 
tall blue flowers growing the whole way 
along it, both sides like. They was a 
wonder. Twenty gardens there must 
have been, counting them all ; but none 
to touch Billy Weeks with his pale-blue 
flowers. There was an old windmill away 
to the left. Then there were the swifts 
sailing by overhead and screeching : just 
about as high again as the houses. Lord, 
how them birds did fly. And there was 
the other young fellows, what were not out 
walking, standing about by the roadside, 
just doing nothing at all. One of them 



50 TALES OF WAR 

had a flute : Jim Booker, he was. Those 
were great days. The bats used to come 
out, flutter, flutter, flutter; and then 
there'd be a star or two ; and the smoke 
from the chimneys going all grey ; and a 
little cold wind going up and down like the 
bats ; and all the colour going out of things ; 
and the woods looking all strange, and a 
wonderful quiet in them, and a mist com- 
ing up from the stream. It's a queer time 
that. It's always about that time, the 
way I see it : the end of the evening in 
the long days, and a star or two, and me 
and my girl going home. 

"Wouldn't you like to talk about things 
for a bit the way you remember them ?" 

"Oh, no, Sergeant," said the other, 
"you go on. You do bring it all back so." 

"I used to bring her home," the Ser- 
geant said, "to her father's house. Her 
father was keeper there, and they had a 
house in the wood. A fine house with 
queer old tiles on it, and a lot of large 
friendly dogs. I knew them all by name, 



ENGLAND 51 

same as they knew me. I used to walk 
home then along the side of the wood. The 
owls would be about; you could hear 
them yelling. They'd float out of the 
wood like, sometimes : all large and white." 

"I knows them," said the Private. 

"I saw a fox once so close I could nearly 
touch him, walking like he was on velvet. 
He just slipped out of the wood." 

"Cunning old brute," said the Private. 

"That's the time to be out," said the 
Sergeant. : 'Ten o'clock on a summer's 
' night, and the night full of noises, not 
many of them, but what there is, strange, 
and coming from a great way off, through 
the quiet, with nothing to stop them. 
Dogs barking, owls hooting, an old cart ; 
and then just once a sound that you 
couldn't account for at all, not anyhow. 
I've heard sounds on nights like that that 
nobody 'ud think you'd heard, nothing 
like the flute that young Booker had, noth- 
ing like anything on earth." 

"I know," said the Private. 



52 TALES OF WAR 

"I never told any one before, because 
they wouldn't believe you. But it doesn't 
matter now. There'd be a light in the 
window to guide me when I got home. I'd 
walk up through the flowers of our garden. 
We had a lovely garden. Wonderful white 
and strange the flowers looked of a night- 
time." 

"You bring it all back wonderful," said 
the Private. 

"It's a great thing to have lived," said 
the Sergeant. 

"Yes, Sergeant," said the other, "I 
wouldn't have missed it, not for anything," 

For five days the barrage had rained 
down behind them : they were utterly cut 
off and had no hope of rescue : their food 
was done, and they did not know where 
they were. 



SHELLS 

WHEN the aeroplanes are home and 
the sunset has flared away, and it 
is cold, and night comes down over France, 
you notice the guns more than you do by 
day, or else they are actually more active 
then, I do not know which it is. 

It is then as though a herd of giants, 
things of enormous height, came out from 
lairs in the earth and began to play with 
the hills. It is as though they picked up 
the tops of the hills in their hands and then 
let them drop rather slowly. It is exactly 
like hills falling. You see the flashes all 
along the sky, and then that lumping 
thump as though the top of the hill had 
been let drop, not all in one piece, but 
crumbled a little as it would drop from 
your hands if you were three hundred feet 

53 



54 TALES OF WAR 

high and were fooling about in the night, 
spoiling what it had taken so long to make. 
That is heavy stuff bursting, a little way 
off. 

If you are anywhere near a shell that 
is bursting, you can hear in it a curious 
metallic ring. That applies to the shells of 
either side, provided that you are near 
enough, though usually of course it is the 
hostile shell and not your own that you 
are nearest to, and so one distinguishes 
them. It is curious, after such a colossal 
event as this explosion must be in the life 
of a bar of steel, that anything should re- 
main at all of the old bell-like voice of the 
metal, but it appears to, if you listen 
attentively ; it is perhaps its last remon- 
strance before leaving its shape and going 
back to rust in the earth again for ages. 

Another of the voices of the night is the 
whine the shell makes in coming ; it is not 
unlike the cry the hyena utters as soon as 
it's dark in Africa: "How nice traveller 
would taste," the hyena seems to say, and 



SHELLS 55 

"I want dead White Man." It is the 
rising note of the shell as it comes nearer, 
and its dying away when it has gone over, 
that make it reminiscent of the hyena's 
method of diction. If it is not going over 
then it has something quite different to 
say. It begins the same as the other, it 
comes up, talking of the back areas with 
the same long whine as the other. I have 
heard old hands say "That one is going 
well over." "Whee-oo," says the shell; but 
just where the "oo" should be long drawn 
out and turn into the hyena's final syllable, 
it says something quite different. "Zarp," 
it says. That is bad. Those are the shells 
that are looking for you. 

And then of course there is the whizz- 
bang coming from close, along his flat 
trajectory : he has little to say, but comes 
like a sudden wind, and all that he has to 
do is done and over at once. 

And then there is the gas shell, who goes 
over gurgling gluttonously, probably in 
big herds, putting down a barrage. It is 



56 TALES OF WAR 

the liquid inside that gurgles before it is 
turned to gas by the mild explosion ; that 
is the explanation of it ; yet that does not 
prevent one picturing a tribe of cannibals 
who have winded some nice juicy men and 
are smacking their chops and dribbling in 
anticipation. 

And a wonderful thing to see, even in 
those wonderful nights, is our thermite 
bursting over the heads of the Germans. 
The shell breaks into a shower of golden 
rain ; one cannot judge easily at night how 
high from the ground it breaks, but about 
as high as the tops of trees seen at a hun- 
dred yards. It spreads out evenly all 
round and rains down slowly ; it is a bad 
shower to be out in, and for a long time 
after it has fallen, the sodden grass of winter, 
and the mud and old bones beneath it, 
burn quietly in a circle. On such a night 
as this, and in such showers, the flying pigs 
will go over, which take two men to carry 
each of them ; they go over and root right 
down to the German dugout, where the 



SHELLS 57 

German has come in out of the golden rain, 
and they fling it all up in the air. 

These are such nights as Scheherazade 
with all her versatility never dreamed of; 
or if such nightmares came she certainly 
never told of them, or her august master, 
the Sultan, light of the age, would have 
had her at once beheaded ; and his people 
would have deemed that he did well. It 
has been reserved for a modern autocrat to 
dream such a nightmare, driven to it per- 
haps by the tales of a white-whiskered 
Scheherazade, the Lord of the Kiel Canal ; 
and being an autocrat he has made the 
nightmare a reality for the world. But 
the nightmare is stronger than its master, 
and grows mightier every night; and the 
All-Highest War Lord learns that there are 
powers in Hell that are easily summoned 
by the rulers of earth, but that go not 
easily home. 



XI 

TWO DEGREES OF ENVY 

IT was night in the front line and no 
moon, or the moon was hidden. There 
was a strafe going on. The Tok Emmas 
were angry. And the artillery on both 
sides were looking for the Tok Emmas. 

Tok Emma, I may explain for the blessed 
dwellers in whatever far happy island there 
be that has not heard of these things, is the 
crude language of Mars. He has not time 
to speak of a trunk mortar battery, for 
he is always in a hurry, and so he calls them 
T. M.'s. But Bellona might not hear him 
saying T. M., for all the din that she makes : 
might think that he said D. N; and so he 
calls it Tok Emma. Ak, Beer, C, Don : 
this is the alphabet of Mars. 

And the huge minnies were throwing old 
limbs out of No Man's Land into the front- 

58 



TWO DEGREES OF ENVY 59 

line trench, and shells were rasping down 
through the air that seemed to resist them 
until it was torn to pieces : they burst and 
showers of mud came down from heaven. 
Aimlessly, as it seemed, shells were burst- 
ing now and then in the air, with a flash 
intensely red : the smell of them was drift- 
ing down the trenches. 

In the middle of all this Bert Butter- 
worth was hit. "Only in the foot," his 
pals said. "Only !" said Bert. They put 
him on a stretcher and carried him down 
the trench. They passed Bill Britterling, 
standing in the mud, an old friend of Bert's. 
Bert's face, twisted with pain, looked up to 
Bill for some sympathy. 

"Lucty devil," said Bill. 

Across the way on the other side of No 
Man's Land there was mud the same as 
on Bill's side : only the mud over there 
stank ; it didn't seem to have been kept 
clean somehow. And the parapet was 
sliding away in places, for working parties 
had not had much of a chance. They had 



60 TALES OF WAR 

three Tok Emmas working in that bat- 
talion front line, and the British batteries 
did not quite know where they were, and 
there were eight of them looking. 

Fritz Groedenschasser, standing in that 
unseemly mud, greatly yearned for them 
to find soon what they were looking for. 
Eight batteries searching for something 
they can't find, along a trench in which 
you have to be, leaves the elephant hunter's 
most desperate tale a little dull and in- 
sipid. Not that Fritz Groedenschasser 
knew anything about elephant hunting : 
he hated all things sporting, and cordially 
approved of the execution of Nurse Cavell. 
And there was thermite too. Flammen- 
werfer was all very well, a good German 
weapon : it could burn a man alive at 
twenty yards. But this accursed flaming 
English thermite could catch you at four 
miles. It wasn't fair. 

The three German trench mortars were 
all still firing. When would the English 
batteries find what they were looking for, 



TWO DEGREES OF ENVY 61 

and this awful thing stop ? The night was 
cold and smelly. 

Fritz shifted his feet in the foul mud, but 
no warmth came to him that way. 

A gust of shells was coming along the 
trench. Still they had not found the min- 
newerfer ! Fritz moved from his place 
altogether to see if he could find some 
place where the parapet was not broken. 
And as he moved along the sewerlike trench 
he came on a wooden cross that marked the 
grave of a man he once had known, now 
buried some days in the parapet, old Ritz 
Handelscheiner. 

"Lucky devil," said Fritz. 



XII 

THE MASTER OF NO MAN'S LAND 

WHEN the last dynasty has fallen and 
the last empire passed away, when 
man himself has gone, there will probably 
still remain the swede. 1 

There grew a swede in No Man's Land 
by Croisille near the Somme, and it had 
grown there for a long while free from man. 

It grew as you never saw a swede grow 
before. It grew tall and strong and weedy. 
It lifted its green head and gazed round 
over No Man's Land. Yes, man was gone, 
and it was the day of the swede. 

The storms were tremendous. Some- 
times pieces of iron sang through its leaves. 
But man was gone and it was the day of the 
swede. 

A man used to come there once, a great 
French farmer, an oppressor of swedes. 

1 The rutabaga or Swedish turnip. 
62 



MASTER OF NO MAN'S LAND 63 

Legends were told of him and his herd of 
cattle, dark traditions that passed down 
vegetable generations. It was somehow 
known in those fields that the man ate 
swedes. 

And now his house was gone and he 
would come no more. 

The storms were terrible, but they were 
better than man. The swede nodded to 
his companions : the years of freedom had 
come. 

They had always known among them 
that these years would come. Man had 
not been there always, but there had al- 
ways been swedes. He would go some day, 
suddenly, as he came. That was the faith 
of the swedes. And when the trees went 
the swede believed that the day was come. 
When hundreds of little weeds arrived that 
were never allowed before, and grew un- 
checked, he knew it. 

After that he grew without any care, in 
sunlight, moonlight and rain ; grew abun- 
dantly and luxuriantly in the freedom, and 



64 TALES OF WAR 

increased in arrogance till he felt himself 
greater than man. And indeed in those 
leaden storms that sang often over his 
foliage all living things seemed equal. 

There was little that the Germans left 
when they retreated from the Somme that 
was higher than this swede. He grew the 
tallest thing for miles and miles. He domi- 
nated the waste. Two cats slunk by him 
from a shattered farm : he towered above 
them contemptuously. 

A partridge ran by him once, far, far 
below his lofty leaves. The night winds 
mourning in No Man's Land seemed to 
sing for him alone. 

It was surely the hour of the swede. 
For him, it seemed, was No Man's Land. 
And there I met him one night by the light 
of a German rocket and brought him back 
to our company to cook. 



XIII 
WEEDS AND WIRE 

THINGS had been happening. Divi- 
sions were moving. There had been, 
there was going to be, a stunt. A bat- 
talion marched over the hill and sat down 
by the road. They had left the trenches 
three days' march to the north and had 
come to a new country. The officers pulled 
their maps out ; a mild breeze fluttered 
them ; yesterday had been winter and to- 
day was spring ; but spring in a desolation 
so complete and far-reaching that you only 
knew of it by that little wind. It was early 
March by the calendar, but the wind was 
blowing out of the gates of April. A 
platoon commander, feeling that mild wind 
blowing, forgot his map and began to 
whistle a tune that suddenly came to him 
out of the past with the wind. Out of the 

65 



66 TALES OF WAR 

past it blew and out of the South, a merry 
vernal tune of a Southern people. Per- 
haps only one of those that noticed the 
tune had ever heard it before. An officer 
sitting near had heard it sung ; it reminded 
him of a holiday long ago in the South. 

"Where did you hear that tune?" he 
asked the platoon commander. 

"Oh, the hell of a long way from here,'* 
the platoon commander said. 

He did not remember quite where it was 
he had heard it, but he remembered a 
sunny day in France and a hill all dark with 
pine woods, and a man coming down at 
evening out of the woods, and down the 
slope to the village, singing this song. Be- 
tween the village and the slope there were 
orchards in blossom. So that he came 
with his song for hundreds of yards through 
orchards. "The hell of a way from here," 
he said. 

For a long while then they sat silent. 

"It mightn't have been so very far from 
here," said the platoon commander. "It 



WEEDS AND WIRE 67 

was in France, now I come to think of it. 
But it was a lovely part of France, all 
woods and orchards. Nothing like this, 
thank God." And he glanced with a tired 
look at the unutterable desolation. 

"Where was it?" said the other. 

"In Picardy," he said. 

"Aren't we in Picardy now?" said his 
friend. 

"Are we?" he said. 

"I don't know. The maps don't call it 
Picardy." 

"It was a fine place, anyway," the platoon 
commander said. :c There seemed always 
to be a wonderful light on the hills. A 
kind of short grass grew on them, and 
it shone in the sun at evening. There 
were black woods above them. A man 
used to come out of them singing at even- 
ing." 

He looked wearily round at the brown 
desolation of weeds. As far as the two 
officers could see there was nothing but 
brown weeds and bits of brown barbed 



68 TALES OF WAR 

wire. He turned from the desolate scene 
back to his reminiscences. 

"He came singing through the orchards 
into the village," he said. "A quaint old 
place with queer gables, called Ville-en- 
Bois." 

"Do you know where we are?" said the 
other. 

"No," said the platoon commander. 

"I thought not," he said. "Hadn't you 
better take a look at the map ?" 

"I suppose so," said the platoon com- 
mander, and he smoothed out his map and 
wearily got to the business of finding out 
where he was. 

"Good Lord!" he said. "Ville-en- 
Bois!" 



XIV 

SPRING IN ENGLAND AND 
FLANDERS 

VERY soon the earliest primroses will be 
coming out in woods wherever they 
have been sheltered from the north. They 
will grow bolder as the days go by, and 
spread and come all down the slopes of sunny 
hills. Then the anemones will come, like a 
shy pale people, one of the tribes of the elves, 
who dare not leave the innermost deeps of 
the wood : in those days all the trees will be 
in leaf, the bluebells will follow, and certain 
fortunate woods will shelter such myriads 
of them that the bright fresh green of the 
beech trees will flash between two blues, the 
blue of the sky and the deeper blue of the 
bluebells. Later the violets come, and such 
a time as this is the perfect time to see 
England : when the cuckoo is heard and he 

69 



70 TALES OF WAR 

surprises his hearers; when evenings are 
lengthening out and the bat is abroad again ; 
and all the flowers are out and all the birds 
sing. At such a time not only Nature 
smiles but our quiet villages and grave old 
spires wake up from winter in the mellow 
air and wear their centuries lightly. At 
such a time you might come just at evening 
on one of those old villages in a valley and 
find it in the mood to tell you the secret of 
the ages that it hid and treasured there 
before the Normans came. Who knows? 
For they are very old, very wise, very 
friendly ; they might speak to you one warm 
evening. If you went to them after great 
suffering they might speak to you ; after 
nights and nights of shelling over in France, 
they might speak to you and you might 
hear them clearly. 

It would be a long, long story that they 
would tell, all about the ages ; and it would 
vary wonderfully little, much less perhaps 
than we think ; and the repetitions rambling 
on and on in the evening, as the old belfry 



SPRING IN ENGLAND 71 

spoke and the cottages gathered below it, 
might sound so soothing after the boom of 
shells that perhaps you would nearly sleep. 
And then with one's memory tired out by 
the war one might never remember the long 
story they told, when the belfry and the 
brown-roofed houses all murmured at even- 
ing, might never remember even that they 
had spoken all through that warm spring 
and evening. We may have heard them 
speak and forgotten that they have spoken. 
Who knows? We are at war, and see so 
many strange things : some we must forget, 
some we must remember ; and we cannot 
choose which. 

To turn from Kent to Flanders is to turn 
to a time of mourning through all seasons 
alike. Spring there brings out no leaf on 
myriad oaks, nor the haze of green that 
floats like a halo above the heads of the 
birch trees, that stand with their fairy like 
trunks haunting the deeps of the woods. 
For miles and miles and miles summer 
ripens no crops, leads out no maidens 



72 TALES OF WAR 

laughing in the moonlight, and brings no 
harvest home. When Autumn looks on 
orchards in all that region of mourning he 
looks upon barren trees that will never 
blossom again. Whiter drives in no sturdy 
farmers at evening to sit before cheery 
fires, families meet not at Christmas, and 
the bells are dumb in belfries ; for all by 
which a man might remember his home has 
been utterly swept away : has been swept 
away to make a maniacal dancing ground 
on which a murderous people dance to their 
death led by a shallow, clever, callous, im- 
perial clown. 

There they dance to. their doom till their 
feet shall find the precipice that was pre- 
pared for them on the day that they 
planned the evil things they have done. 



T 



XV 

THE NIGHTMARE COUNTRIES 
HERE are certain lands in the darker 



dreams of poetry that stand out in the 
memory of generations. There is for in- 
stance Poe's "Dark tarn of Auber, the 
ghoul-haunted region of Weir"; there are 
some queer twists in the river Alph as 
imagined by Coleridge ; two lines of Swin- 
burne : 

"By the tideless dolorous inland sea 

In a land of sand and ruin and gold," 
are as haunting as any. There are in 
literature certain regions of gloom, so 
splendid that whenever you come on them 
they leave in the mind a sort of nightmare 
country which one's thoughts revisit on 
hearing the lines quoted. 

It is pleasant to picture such countries 
sometimes when sitting before the fire. It 

73 



74 TALES OF WAR 

is pleasant because you can banish them by 
the closing of a book ; a puff of smoke from 
a pipe will hide them altogether, and back 
come the pleasant, wholesome, familiar 
things. But in France they are there 
always. In France the nightmare countries 
stand all night in the starlight ; dawn comes 
and they still are there. The dead are 
buried out of sight and others take their 
places among men ; but the lost lands lie 
unburied gazing up at the winds ; and the 
lost woods stand like skeletons all grotesque 
in the solitude ; the very seasons have fled 
from them. The very seasons have fled ; 
so that if you look up to see whether sum- 
mer has turned to autumn, or if autumn has 
turned to winter yet, nothing remains to 
show you. It is like the eccentric dream 
of some strange man, very arresting and 
mysterious, but lacking certain things that 
should be there before you can recognize 
it as earthly. It is a mad, mad landscape. 
There are miles and miles and miles of it. 
It is the biggest thing man has done. It 



THE NIGHTMARE COUNTRIES 75 

looks as though man in his pride, with all 
his clever inventions, had made for himself 
a sorry attempt at creation. 

Indeed when we trace it all back to its 
origin we find at the beginning of this 
unhappy story a man who was only an 
emperor and wished to be something more. 
He would have ruled the world but has only 
meddled with it ; and his folly has brought 
misery to millions, and there lies his broken 
dream on the broken earth. He will never 
take Paris now. He will never be crowned 
at Versailles as Emperor of Europe ; and 
after that, most secret dream of all, did 
not the Caesars proclaim themselves divine ? 
Was it not whispered among Macedonian 
courtiers that Alexander was the child of 
God ? And was the Hohenzollern less than 
these ? 

What might not force accomplish ? All 
gone now, that dream and the Hohen- 
zollern line broken. A maniacal dream 
and broken farms all mixed up together : 
they make a pretty nightmare and the 



76 TALES OF WAR 

clouds still gleam at night with the flashes 
of shells, and the sky is still troubled by 
day with uncouth balloons and the black 
bursts of the German shells and the white 
of our anti-aircraft. 

And below there lies this wonderful waste 
land where no girls sing, and where no birds 
come but starlings ; where no hedgerows 
stand, and no lanes with wild roses, and 
where no pathways run through fields of 
wheat, and there are no fields at all and no 
farms and no farmers ; and two haystacks 
stand on a hill I know, undestroyed in the 
desolation, and nobody touches them for 
they know the Germans too well ; and the 
tops have been blown off hills down to the 
chalk. And men say of this place that it is 
Pozieres and of that place that it is Ginchy ; 
nothing remains to show that hamlets stood 
there at all, and a brown, brown weed grows 
over it all for ever ; and a mighty spirit has 
arisen in man, and no one bows to the War 
Lord though many die. And Liberty is 
she who sang her songs of old, and is fair 



THE NIGHTMARE COUNTRIES 77 

as she ever was, when men see her in visions, 
at night in No Man's Land when they have 
the strength to crawl in : still she walks of 
a night in Pozieres and in Ginchy. 

A fanciful man once called himself the 
Emperor of the Sahara : the German Kaiser 
has stolen into a fair land and holds with 
weakening hands a land of craters and 
weed, and wire and wild cabbages and old 
German bones. 



XVI 
SPRING AND THE KAISER 

WHILE all the world is waiting for 
Spring there lie great spaces in one 
of the pleasantest lands to which Spring 
cannot come. 

Pear trees and cherry and orchards flash 
over other lands, blossoming as abundantly 
as though their wonder were new, with a 
beauty as fresh and surprising as though 
nothing like it before had ever adorned 
countless centuries. Now with the larch 
and soon with the beech trees and hazel, a 
bright green blazes forth to illumine the 
year. The slopes are covered with violets. 
Those who have gardens are beginning to 
be proud of them and to point them out 
to their neighbours. Almond and peach in 
blossom peep over old brick walls. The 

78 



SPRING AND THE KAISER 79 

land dreams of summer all in the youth of 
the year. 

But better than all this the Germans 
have found war. The simple content of 
a people at peace in pleasant countries 
counted for nothing with them. Their 
Kaiser prepared for war, made speeches 
about war, and, when he was ready, made 
war. And now the hills that should be 
covered with violets are full of murderous 
holes, and the holes are half full of empty 
meat tins, and the garden walls have gone 
and the gardens with them, and there are no 
woods left to shelter anemones. Boundless 
masses of brown barbed wire straggle over 
the landscape. All the orchards there are 
cut down out of ruthless spite to hurt France 
whom they cannot conquer. All the little 
trees that grow near gardens are gone, 
aspen, laburnum and lilac. It is like this 
for hundreds of miles. Hundreds of ruined 
towns gaze at it with vacant windows and 
see a land from which even Spring is ban- 
ished. And not a ruined house in all the 



80 TALES OF WAR 

hundred towns but mourns for some one, 
man, woman or child ; for the Germans 
make war equally on all in the land where 
Spring comes no more. 

Some day Spring will come back ; some 
day she will shine all April in Picardy again, 
for Nature is never driven utterly forth, 
but comes back with her seasons to cover 
up even the vilest things. 

She shall hide the raw earth of the shell 
holes till the violets come again ; she shall 
bring back even the orchards for Spring 
to walk in once more ; the woods will grow 
tall again above the southern anemones ; 
and the great abandoned guns of the Ger- 
mans will rust by the rivers of France. 
Forgotten like them, the memory of the 
War Lord will pass with his evil deeds. 



XVII 
TWO SONGS 

OVER slopes of English hills looking 
south in the time of violets, evening 
was falling. 

Shadows at edges of woods moved, and 
then merged in the gloaming. 

The bat, like a shadow himself, finding 
that spring was come, slipped from the dark 
of the wood as far as a clump of beech 
trees and fluttered back again on his 
wonderful quiet wings. 

Pairing pigeons were home. 

Very young rabbits stole out to gaze at 
the calm still world. They came out as the 
stars come. At one time they were not 

i 

there, and then you saw them, but you did 
not see them come. 

Towering clouds to the west built palaces, 
cities and mountains ; bastions of rose and 

81 



82 TALES OF WAR 

precipices of gold ; giants went home over 
them draped in mauve by steep rose-pink 
ravines into emerald-green empires. Tur- 
bulences of colour broke out above the de- 
parted sun ; giants merged into mountains, 
and cities became seas, and new processions 
of other fantastic things sailed by. But 
the chalk slopes facing south smiled on with 
the same calm light, as though every blade 
of grass gathered a ray from the gloaming. 
All the hills faced the evening with that 
same quiet glow, which faded softly as the 
air grew colder ; and the first star appeared. 

Voices came up in the hush, clear from 
the valley, and ceased. A light was lit, 
like a spark, in a distant window : more 
stars appeared and the woods were all dark 
now, and shapes even on the hill slopes 
began to grow indistinct. 

Home by a laneway in the dim, still even- 
ing a girl was going, singing the Marseillaise. 

In France where the downs in the north 
roll away without hedges, as though they 
were great free giants that man had never 



TWO SONGS 83 

confined, as though they were stretching 
their vast free limbs in the evening, the 
same light was smiling and glimmering 
softly away. 

A road wound over the downs and away 
round one of their shoulders. A hush lay 
over them as though the giants slept, or as 
though they guarded in silence their ancient, 
wonderful history. 

The stillness deepened and the dimness of 
twilight ; and just before colours fade, while 
shapes can still be distinguished, there came 
by the road a farmer leading his Norman 
horse. High over the horse's withers his 
collar pointed with brass made him fantastic 
and huge and strange to see in the evening. 

They moved together through that mel- 
low light towards where unseen among the 
clustered downs the old French farmer's 
house was sheltered away. 

He was going home at evening humming 
"God Save the King." 



XVIII 

THE PUNISHMENT 

AN exhalation arose, drawn up by the 
moon, from an old battlefield after 
the passing of years. It came out of very 
old craters and gathered from trenches, 
smoked up from No Man's Land, and the 
ruins of farms ; it rose from the rottenness 
of dead brigades, and lay for half the night 
over two armies ; but at midnight the moon 
drew it up all into one phantom and it rose 
and trailed away eastwards. 

It passed over men in grey that were 
weary of war; it passed over a land once 
prosperous, happy and mighty, in which 
were a people that were gradually starving ; 
it passed by ancient belfries in which there 
were no bells now ; it passed over fear and 
misery and weeping, and so came to the 
palace at Potsdam. It was the dead of the 

84 



THE PUNISHMENT 85 

night between midnight and dawn, and the 
palace was very still that the Emperor 
might sleep, and sentries guarded it who 
made no noise and relieved others in silence. 
Yet it was not so easy to sleep. Picture to 
yourself a murderer who had killed a man. 
Would you sleep ? Picture yourself the 
man that planned this war ! Yes, you 
sleep, but nightmares come. 

The phantom entered the chamber. 
"Come," it said. 

The Kaiser leaped up at once as obe- 
diently as when he came to attention on 
parade, years ago, as a subaltern in the 
Prussian Guard, a man whom no woman or 
child as yet had ever cursed ; he leaped up 
and followed. They passed the silent sen- 
tries ; none challenged and none saluted ; 
they were moving swiftly over the town as 
the felon Gothas go ; they came to a cottage 
in the country. They drifted over a little 
garden gate, and there in a neat little 
garden the phantom halted like a wind that 
has suddenly ceased. "Look," it said. 



86 TALES OF WAR 

Should he look ? Yet he must look. The 
Kaiser looked ; and saw a window shining 
and a neat room in the cottage : there was 
nothing dreadful there ; thank the good 
German God for that ; it was all right, after 
all. The Kaiser had had a fright, but it 
was all right ; there was only a woman with 
a baby sitting before the fire, and two 
small children and a man. And it was 
quite a jolly room. And the man was a 
young soldier ; and, why, he was a Prussian 
Guardsman, there was his helmet hang- 
ing on the wall, so everything was all 
right. They were jolly German children ; 
that was well. How nice and homely the 
room was. There shone before him, and 
showed far off in the night, the visible 
reward of German thrift and industry. It 
was all so tidy and neat, and yet they were 
quite poor people. The man had done his 
work for the Fatherland, and yet beyond 
all that had been able to afford all those 
little knickknacks that make a home so 
pleasant and that in their humble little 



THE PUNISHMENT 87 

way were luxury. And while the Kaiser 
looked the two young children laughed as 
they played on the floor, not seeing that 
face at the window. 

Why ! Look at the helmet. That was 
lucky. A bullet hole right through the 
front of it. That must have gone very 
close to the man's head. How ever did it 
get through? It must have glanced up- 
wards as bullets sometimes do. The hole 
was quite low in the helmet. It would be 
dreadful to have bullets coming by close 
like that. The firelight flickered, and the 
lamp shone on, and the children played on 
the floor, and the man was smoking out of 
a china pipe ; he was strong and able and 
young, one of the wealth-winners of Ger- 
many. 

"Have you seen?" said the phantom. 

"Yes," said the Kaiser. It was well, he 
thought, that a Kaiser should see how his 
people lived. 

At once the fire went out and the lamp 
faded away, the room fell sombrely into 



88 TALES OF WAR 

neglect and squalor, and the soldier and the 
children faded away with the room ; all 
disappeared phantasmally, and nothing re- 
mained but the helmet in a kind of glow on 
the wall, and the woman sitting all by her- 
self in the darkness. 

"It has all gone," said the Kaiser. 

"It has never been," said the phantom. 

The Kaiser looked again. Yes, there 
was nothing there, it was just a vision. 
There were the grey walls all damp and 
uncared for, and that helmet standing out 
solid and round, like the only real thing 
among fancies. No, it had never been. It 
was just a vision. 

"It might have been," said the phantom. 

Might have been? How might it have 
been? 

"Come," said the phantom. 

They drifted away down a little lane that 
in summer would have had roses, and came 
to an Uhlan's house ; in times of peace a 
small farmer. Farm buildings in good 
repair showed even in the night, and the 



THE PUNISHMENT 89 

black shapes of haystacks ; again a well- 
kept garden lay by the house. The phan- 
tom and the Kaiser stood in the garden ; 
before them a window glowed in a lamplit 
room. 

"Look," said the phantom. 

The Kaiser looked again and saw a 
young couple ; the woman played with a 
baby, and all was prosperous in the merry 
room. Again the hard- won wealth of Ger- 
many shone out for all to see, the cosy 
comfortable furniture spoke of acres well 
cared for, spoke of victory in the struggle 
with the seasons on which wealth of nations 
depends. 

"It might have been," said the phantom. 

Again the fire died out and the merry 
scene faded away, leaving a melancholy, 
ill-kept room, with poverty and mourning 
haunting dusty corners and the woman sit- 
ting alone. 

"Why do you show me this?" said the 
Kaiser. "Why do you show me these 
visions?" 



90 TALES OF WAR 

"Come," said the phantom. 

"What is it ? " said the Kaiser. " Where 
are you bringing me ? " 

"Come," said the phantom. 

They went from window to window, from 
land to land. You had seen, had you been 
out that night in Germany, and able to see 
visions, an imperious figure passing from 
place to place, looking on many scenes. 
He looked on them, and families withered 
away, and happy scenes faded, and the 
phantom said to him "Come." He ex- 
postulated but obeyed ; and so they went 
from window to window of hundreds of 
farms in Prussia, till they came to the 
Prussian border and went on into Saxony ; 
and always you would have heard, could 
you hear spirits speak, "It might have 
been," "It might have been," repeated 
from window to window. 

They went down through Saxony, head- 
ing for Austria. And for long the Kaiser 
kept that callous, imperious look. But 
at last he, even he, at last he nearly wept. 



THE PUNISHMENT 91 

And the phantom turned then and swept 
him back over Saxony, and into Prussia 
again and over the sentries' heads, back to 
his comfortable bed where it was so hard 
to sleep. 

And though they had seen thousands of 
merry homes, homes that can never be 
merry now, shrines of perpetual mourning ; 
though they had seen thousands of smiling 
German children, who will never be born 
now, but were only the visions of hopes 
blasted by him ; for all the leagues over 
which he had been so ruthlessly hurried, 
dawn was yet barely breaking. 

He had looked on the first few thousand 
homes of which he had robbed all time, and 
which he must see with his eyes before he 
may go hence. The first night of the 
Kaiser's punishment was accomplished. 



XIX 

THE ENGLISH SPIRIT 

BY the end of the South African war 
Sergeant Cane had got one thing 
very well fixed in his mind, and that was 
that war was an overrated amusement. 
He said he "was fed up with it", partly 
because that misused metaphor was then 
new, partly because every one was saying 
it : he felt it right down in his bones, and 
he had a long memory. So when wonder- 
ful rumours came to the East Anglian 
village where he lived, on August 1, 1914, 
Sergeant Cane said: 'That means war," 
and decided then and there to have nothing 
to do with it : it was somebody else's 
turn ; he felt he had done enough. Then 
came August 4th, and England true to her 
destiny, and then Lord Kitchener's appeal 
for men. Sergeant Cane had a family to 

92 



THE ENGLISH SPIRIT 93 

look after and a nice little house : he had 
left the army ten years. 

In the next week all the men went who 
had been in the army before, all that were 
young enough, and a good sprinkling of 
the young men too who had never been in 
the army. Men asked Cane if he was 
going, and he said straight out "No." 

By the middle of August Cane was affect- 
ing the situation. He was a little rally- 
ing point for men who did not want to go. 
"He knows what it's like," they said. 

In the smoking room of the Big House 
sat the Squire and his son, Arthur Smith ; 
and Sir Munion Boomer-Platt, the Mem- 
ber for the division. The Squire's son had 
been in the last war as a boy, and like 
Sergeant Cane had left the army since. 
All the morning he had been cursing an 
imaginary general, seated in the War Office 
at an imaginary desk with Smith's own 
letter before him, in full view but un- 
opened. Why on earth didn't he answer 
it, Smith thought. But he was calmer 



94 TALES OF WAR 

now, and the Squire and Sir Munion were 
talking of Sergeant Cane. 

"Leave him to me," said Sir Munion. 

"Very well," said the Squire. So Sir 
Munion Boomer-Platt went off and called 
on Sergeant Cane. 

Mrs. Cane knew what he had come for. 

"Don't let him talk you over, Bill," 
she said. 
' "Not he," said Sergeant Cane. 

Sir Munion came on Sergeant Cane in 
his garden. 

"A fine day," said Sir Munion. And 
from that he went on to the war. "If you 
enlist," he said, "they will make you a ser- 
geant again at once. You will get a ser- 
geant's pay, and your wife will get the 
new separation allowance." 

"Sooner have Cane," said Mrs. Cane. 

"Yes, yes, of course," said Sir Munion. 
"But then there is the medal, probably 
two or three medals, and the glory of it, 
and it is such a splendid life." 

Sir Munion did warm to a thing when- 



THE ENGLISH SPIRIT 95 

ever he began to hear his own words. He 
painted war as it has always been painted, 
one of the most beautiful things you could 
imagine. And then it mustn't be sup- 
posed that it was like those wars that there 
used to be, a long way oft 7 . There would be 
houses where you would be billeted, and 
good food, and shady trees and villages 
wherever you went. And it was such an 
opportunity of seeing the Continent ("the 
Continent as it really is," Sir Munion 
called it) as would never come again, and 
he only wished he were younger. Sir 
Munion really did wish it, as he spoke, 
for his own words stirred him profoundly ; 
but somehow or other they did not stir 
Sergeant Cane. No, he had done his share, 
and he had a family to look after. 

Sir Munion could not understand him : 
he went back to the Big House and said so. 
He had told him all the advantages he 
could think of that were there to be had 
for the asking, and Sergeant Cane merely 
neglected them. 



96 TALES OF WAR 

"Let me have a try," said Arthur Smith. 
"He soldiered with me before." 

Sir Munion shrugged his shoulders. He 
had all the advantages at his fingers' ends, 
from pay to billeting : there was nothing 
more to be said. Nevertheless young Smith 
went. 

"Hullo, Sergeant Cane," said Smith. 

"Hullo, sir," said the sergeant. 

"Do you remember that night at Reit 
River?" 

"Don't I, sir," said Cane. 

" One blanket each and no ground sheet ? " 

"I remember, sir," said Cane. 

"Didn't it rain," said Smith. 

"It rained that night, proper." 

"Drowned a few of the lice, I suppose." 

"Not many," said Cane. 

"No, not many," Smith reflected. "The 
Boers had the range all right that time." 

"Gave it us proper," said Cane. 

"We were hungry that night," said 
Smith. "I could have eaten biltong." 

"I did eat some of it," said Cane. "Not 



THE ENGLISH SPIRIT 97 

bad stuff, what there was of it, only not 
enough." 

"I don't think," said Smith, "that I've 
ever slept on the bare earth since." 

"No, sir?" said Cane. "It's hard. 
You get used to it. But it will always 
be hard." 

: 'Yes, it will always be hard," said 
Smith. "Do you remember the time we 
were thirsty?" 

"Oh, yes, sir," said Cane, "I remember 
that. One doesn't forget that." 

"No. I still dream of it sometimes," 
said Smith. "It makes a nasty dream. 
I wake with my mouth all dry too, when I 
dream that." 

"Yes," said Cane, "one doesn't forget 
being thirsty." 

"Well," said Smith, "I suppose we're 
for it all over again ?" 

"I suppose so, sir," said Cane. 



XX 

AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE 
CAUSES AND ORIGIN OF THE WAR 

THE German imperial barber has been 
called up. He must have been called 
up quite early in the war. I have seen 
photographs in papers that leave no doubt 
of that. Who he is I do not know : I 
once read his name in an article but have 
forgotten it ; few even know if he still 
lives. And yet what harm he has done ! 
What vast evils he has unwittingly origi- 
nated ! Many years ago he invented a 
frivolity, a jeu d' 'esprit easily forgivable to 
an artist in the heyday of his youth, to 
whom his art was new and even perhaps 
wonderful. A craft, of course, rather than 
an art, and a humble craft at that ; but 
then, the man was young, and what will 
not seem wonderful to youth ? 

98 



CAUSES AND ORIGIN OF WAR 99 

He must have taken the craft very seri- 
ously, but as youth takes things seriously, 
fantastically and with laughter. He must 
have determined to outshine rivals : he 
must have gone away and thought, burn- 
ing candles late perhaps, when all the 
palace was still. But how can youth think 
seriously ? And there had come to him 
this absurd, this fantastical conceit. What 
else would have come? The more seri- 
ously he took the tonsorial art, the more 
he studied its tricks and phrases and 
heard old barbers lecture, the more sure 
were the imps of youth to prompt him to 
laughter and urge him to something out- 
rageous and ridiculous. The background 
of the dull pomp of Potsdam must have 
made all this more certain. It was bound to 
come. 

And so one day, or, as I have suggested, 
suddenly late one night, there came to 
the young artist bending over tonsorial 
books that quaint, mad, odd, preposterous 
inspiration. Ah, what pleasure there is in 



100 TALES OF WAR 

the madness of youth ; it is not like the 
madness of age, clinging to outworn for- 
mulae ; it is the madness of breaking away, 
of galloping among precipices, of dallying 
with the impossible, of courting the absurd. 
And this inspiration, it was in none of the 
books; the lecturer barbers had not lec- 
tured on it, could not dream of it and did 
not dare to ; there was no tradition for it, 
no precedent ; it was mad ; and to in- 
troduce it into the pomp of Potsdam, that 
was the daring of madness. And this 
preposterous inspiration of the absurd young 
barber-madman was nothing less than a 
moustache that without any curve at all, 
or any suggestion of sanity, should go 
suddenly up at the ends very nearly as 
high as the eyes ! 

He must have told his young fellow 
craftsmen first, for youth goes first to 
youth with its hallucinations. And they, 
what could they have said? You cannot 
say of madness that it is mad, you cannot 
call absurdity absurd. To have criticized 



CAUSES AND ORIGIN OF WAR 101 

would have revealed jealousy ; and as for 
praise you could not praise a thing like 
that. They probably shrugged, made ges- 
tures ; and perhaps one friend warned him. 
But you cannot warn a man against a 
madness ; if the madness is in possession 
it will not be warned away : why should it ? 
And then perhaps he went to the old 
barbers of the Court. You can picture 
their anger. Age does not learn from youth 
in any case. But there was the insult to 
their ancient craft, bad enough if only 
imagined, but here openly spoken of. And 
what would come of it ? They must have 
feared, on the one hand, dishonour to their 
craft if this young barber were treated as 
his levity deserved ; and, on the other 
hand, could they have feared his success? 
I think they could not have guessed it. 

And then the young idiot with his pre- 
posterous inspiration must have looked 
about to see where he could practise his 
new absurdity. It should have been enough 
to have talked about it among his fellow 



102 TALES OF WAR 

barbers ; they would have gone with new 
zest to their work next day for this de- 
lirious interlude, and no harm would have 
been done. "Fritz," (or Hans) they would 
have said, "was a bit on last night, a bit 
full up," or whatever phrase they use to 
touch on drunkenness ; and the thing 
would have been forgotten. We all have 
our fancies. But this young fool wanted to 
get his fancy mixed up with practice : that's 
where he was mad. And in Potsdam, of 
all places. 

He probably tried his friends first, young 
barbers at the Court and others of his own 
standing. None of them were fools enough 
to be seen going about like that. They 
had jobs to lose. A Court barber is one 
thing, a man who cuts ordinary hair is 
quite another. Why should they become 
outcasts because their friend chose to be 
mad? 

He probably tried his inferiors then, but 
they would have been timid folk ; they 
must have seen the thing was absurd, and 



CAUSES AND ORIGIN OF WAR 103 

of course daren't risk it. Again, why 
should they ? 

Did he try to get some noble then to 
patronize his invention ? Probably the first 
refusals he had soon inflamed his madness 
more, and he threw caution insanely to the 
winds, and went straight to the Emperor. 

It was probably about the time that the 
Emperor dismissed Bismarck ; certainly 
the drawings of that time show him still 
with a sane moustache. 

The young barber probably chanced on 
him in this period, finding him bereft of 
an adviser, and ready to be swayed by 
whatever whim should come. Perhaps he 
was attracted by the barber's hardihood, 
perhaps the absurdity of his inspiration 
had some fascination for him, perhaps he 
merely saw that the thing was new and, 
feeling jaded, let the barber have his way. 
And so the frivolity became a fact, the ab- 
surdity became visible, and honour and 
riches came the way of the barber. 

A small thing, you might say, however 



104 TALES OF WAR 

fantastical. And yet I believe the ab- 
surdity of that barber to be among the 
great evils that have brought death nearer 
to man ; whimsical and farcical as it was, 
yet a thing deadlier than Helen's beauty 
or Tamerlane's love of skulls. For just 
as character is outwardly shown so out- 
ward things react upon the character ; 
and who, with that daring barber's ludi- 
crous fancy visible always on his face, could 
quite go the sober way of beneficent mon- 
archs ? The fantasy must be mitigated 
here, set off there ; had you such a figure to 
dress, say for amateur theatricals, you 
would realize the difficulty. The heavy 
silver eagle to balance it ; the glittering 
cuirass lower down, preventing the eye 
from dwelling too long on the barber's 
absurdity. And then the pose to go with 
the cuirass and to carry off the wild con- 
ceit of that mad, mad barber. He has 
much to answer for, that eccentric man 
whose name so few remember. For pose 
led to actions ; and just when Europe 



CAUSES AND ORIGIN OF WAR 105 

most needed a man of wise counsels, re- 
straining the passions of great empires, 
just then she had ruling over Germany and, 
unhappily, dominating Austria, a man who 
every year grew more akin to the folly 
of that silly barber's youthful inspiration. 

Let us forgive the barber. For long I 
have known from pictures that I have 
seen of the Kaiser that he has gone to the 
trenches. Probably he is dead. Let us 
forgive the barber. But let us bear in 
mind that the futile fancies of youth may 
be deadly things, and that one of them 
falling on a fickle mind may so stir its 
shallows as to urge it to disturb and set in 
motion the avalanches of illimitable grief. 



XXI 

LOST 

DESCRIBING a visit, say the papers 
of March 28th, which the Kaiser 
paid incognito to Cologne Cathedral on 
March 18th before the great battle, the 
Cologne correspondent of the Tyd says : 

There were only a few persons in the 
building. Under high arches and in spa- 
cious solitude the Kaiser sat, as if in deep 
thought, before the priests' choir. Behind 
him his military staff stood respectfully 
at a distance. Still musing as he rose, 
the monarch resting both hands on his 
walking-stick remains standing immovable 
for some minutes. ... I shall never for- 
get this picture of the musing monarch 
praying in Cologne Cathedral on the eve 
of the great battle. 

Probably he won't forget it. The Ger- 
man casualty lists will help to remind him. 
But what is more to the point is that 

106 



LOST 107 

this expert propagandist has presumably 
received orders that we are not to forget 
it, and that the sinister originator of the 
then impending holocaust should be toned 
down a little in the eyes at least of the 
Tyd to something a little more amiable. 

And no doubt the little piece of propa- 
ganda gave every satisfaction to those who 
ordered it, or they would not have passed 
it out to the Tyd, and the touching little 
scene would never have reached our eyes. 
At the same time the little tale would have 
been better suited to the psychology of 
other countries if he had made the War 
Lord kneel when he prayed in Cologne 
Cathedral, and if he had represented the 
Military Staff as standing out of respect 
to One who, outside Germany, is held in 
greater respect than the All Highest. 

And had the War Lord really knelt is 
it not possible that he might have found 
pity, humility, or even contrition ? Things 
easily overlooked in so large a cathedral 
when sitting erect, as a War Lord, before 



108 TALES OF WAR 

the priests' choir, but to be noticed per- 
haps with one's eyes turned to the ground. 

Perhaps he nearly found one of those 
things. Perhaps he felt (who knows?) 
just for a moment, that in the dimness of 
those enormous aisles was something he had 
lost a long, long while ago. 

One is not mistaken to credit the very 
bad with feeling far, faint appeals from 
things of glory like Cologne Cathedral; 
it is that the appeals come to them too far 
and faint on their headlong descent to ruin. 

For what was the War Lord seeking? 
Did he know that pity for his poor slaugh- 
tered people, huddled by him on to our 
ceaseless machine guns, might be found by 
seeking there? Or was it only that the 
lost thing, whatever it was, made that 
faint appeal to him, passing the door by 
chance, and drew him in, as the scent of 
some herb or flower in a moment draws us 
back years to look for something lost in 
our youth ; we gaze back, wondering, and 
do not find it. 



LOST 109 

And to think that perhaps he lost it by 
very little ! That, but for that proud at- 
titude and the respectful staff, he might 
have seen what was lost, and have come 
out bringing pity for his people. Might 
have said to the crowd that gave him that 
ovation, as we read, outside the door : 
"My pride has driven you to this needless 
war, my ambition has made a sacrifice of 
millions, but it is over, and it shall be no 
more ; I will make no more conquests." 

They would have killed him. But for 
that renunciation, perhaps, however late, 
the curses of the widows of his people 
might have kept away from his grave. 

But he did not find it. He sat at prayer. 
Then he stood. Then he marched out : 
and his staff marched out behind him. And 
in the gloom of the floor of the vast Cologne 
Cathedral lie the things that the Kaiser 
did not find and never will find now. 
Unnoticed thus, and in some silent moment, 
passes a man's last chance. 



XXII 

THE LAST MIRAGE 

THE desolation that the German offen- 
sive has added to the dominions of 
the Kaiser cannot easily be imagined by 
any one who has never seen a desert. 
Look at it on the map and it is full of the 
names of towns and villages ; it is in 
Europe, where there are no deserts; it is 
a fertile province among places of famous 
names. Surely it is a proud addition 
to an ambitious monarch's possessions. 
Surely there is something there that it is 
worth while to have conquered at the cost 
of army corps. No, nothing. They are 
mirage towns. The farms grow Dead Sea 
fruit. France recedes before the imperial 
clutch. France smiles, but not for him. 
His new towns seem to be his because 
their names have not yet been removed 
no 



THE LAST MIRAGE 111 

from any map, but they crumble at his 
approach because France is not for him. 
His deadly ambition makes a waste be- 
fore it as it goes, clutching for cities. It 
comes to them and the cities are not there. 

I have seen mirages and have heard 
others told of, but the best mirages of all 
we never hear described ; the mirage that 
waterless travellers see at the last. Those 
fountains rising out of onyx basins, blue 
and straight into incredible heights, and 
falling and flooding cool white marble ; 
the haze of spray above their feathery 
heads through which the pale green domes 
of weathered copper shimmer and shake 
a little ; mysterious temples, the tombs of 
unknown kings ; the cataracts coming down 
from rose-quartz cliffs, far off but seen 
quite clearly, growing to rivers bearing 
curious barges to the golden courts of 
Sahara. These things we never see; they 
are seen at the last by men who die of 
thirst. 

Even so has the Kaiser looked at the 



TALES OF WAR 

smiling plains of France. Even so has he 
looked on her famous ancient cities and 
the farms and the fertile fields and the 
woods and orchards of Picardy. With 
effort and trouble he has moved towards 
them. As he comes near to them the 
cities crumble, the woods shrivel and fall, 
the farms fade out of Picardy, even the 
hedgerows go ; it is bare, bare desert. 
He had been sure of Paris, he had dreamed 
of Versailles and some monstrous corona- 
tion, he had thought his insatiable avarice 
would be sated. For he had plotted for 
conquest of the world, that boundless greed 
of his goading him on as a man in the grip 
of thirst broods upon lakes. 

He sees victory near him now. That 
also will fade in the desert of old barbed 
wire and weeds. When will he see that 
a doom is over all his ambitions? For 
his dreams of victory are like those last 
dreams that come in deceptive deserts to 
dying men. 

There is nothing good for him in the 



THE LAST MIRAGE 113 

desert of the Somme. Bapaume is not 
really there, though it be marked on his 
maps; it is only a wilderness of slates and 
brick. Peronne looks like a city a long 
way off, but when you come near it is 
only the shells of houses. Poziere, Le 
Sars, Sapigny, are gone altogether. 

And all is Dead Sea fruit in a visible 
desert. The reports of German victories 
there are mirage like all the rest ; they too 
will fade into weeds and old barbed wire. 

And the advances that look like vic- 
tories, and the ruins that look like cities, 
and the shell-beaten broken fields that 
look like farms, --they and the dreams 
of conquest and all the plots and ambi- 
tions, they are all the mirage of a dying 
dynasty in a desert it made for its doom. 

Bones lead up to the desert, bones are 
scattered about it, it is the most menacing 
and calamitous waste of all the deadly 
places that have been inclement to man. 
It flatters the Hohenzollerns with visions 
of victory now because they are doomed 



114 TALES OF WAR 

by it and are about to die. When their 
race has died the earth shall smile again, 
for their deadly mirage shall oppress us 
no more. The cities shall rise again and 
the farms come back; hedgerows and 
orchards shall be seen again ; the woods 
shall slowly lift their heads from the dust ; 
and gardens shall come again where the 
desert was, to bloom in happier ages that 
forget the Hohenzollerns. 



XXIII 
A FAMOUS MAN 

LAST winter a famous figure walked 
in Behagnies. Soldiers came to see 
him from their billets all down the Arras 
road, from Ervillers and from Sapigny, 
and from the ghosts of villages back from 
the road, places that once were villages 
but are only names now. They would 
walk three or four miles, those who could 
not get lorries, for his was one of those 
names that all men know, not such a name 
as a soldier or poet may win, but a name 
that all men know. They used to go there 
at evening. 

Four miles away on the left as you went 

from Ervillers, the guns mumbled over 

the hills, low hills over which the Verys 

from the trenches put up their heads and 

115 



116 TALES OF WAR 

peered around, greeny, yellowy heads 
that turned the sky sickly, and the clouds 
lit up and went grey again all the night 
long. As you got near to Behagnies you 
lost sight of the Verys, but the guns 
mumbled on. A silly little train used to 
run on one's left, which used to whistle 
loudly, as though it asked to be shelled, but 
I never saw a shell coming its way ; perhaps 
it knew that the German gunners could not 
calculate how slow it went. It crossed the 
road as you got down to Behagnies. 

You passed the graves of two or three 
German soldiers with their names on white 
wooden crosses, men killed in 1914 ; and 
then a little cemetery of a French cavalry 
regiment, where a big cross stood in the 
middle with a wreath and a tricolor badge, 
and the names of the men. And then one 
saw trees. That was always a wonder, 
whether one saw their dark shapes in the 
evening, or whether one saw them by day, 
and knew from the look of their leaves 
whether autumn had come yet, or gone. 



A FAMOUS MAN 117 

In winter at evening one just saw the black 
bulk of them, but that was no less marvel- 
lous than seeing them green in summer ; 
trees by the side of the Arras-Bapaume 
road, trees in mid-desert in the awful 
region of Somme. There were not many 
of them, just a cluster, fewer than the 
date palms in an oasis in Sahara, but 
an oasis is an oasis wherever you find it, 
and a few trees make it. There are little 
places here and there, few enough as the 
Arabs know, that the Sahara's deadly sand 
has never been able to devastate ; and 
there are places even in the Somme that 
German malice, obeying the Kaiser as the 
sand of Sahara obeys the accursed sirocco, 
has not been able to destroy quite to the 
uttermost. That little cluster of trees at 
Behagnies is one of these ; Divisional 
Headquarters used to shelter beneath them ; 
and near them was a statue on a lawn which 
probably stood by the windows of some fine 
house, though there is no trace of the house 
but the lawn and that statue now. 



118 TALES OF WAR 

And over the way on the left a little 
further on, just past the officers' club, a 
large hall stood where one saw that famous 
figure, whom officers and men alike would 
come so far to see. 

The hall would hold perhaps four or 
five hundred seats in front of a stage fitted 
up very simply with red, white and blue 
cloths, but fitted up by some one that 
understood the job ; and at the back of 
that stage on those winter evenings walked 
on his flat and world-renowned feet the 
figure of Charlie Chaplin. 

When aeroplanes came over bombing, 
the dynamos used to stop for they sup- 
plied light to other places besides the 
cinema, and the shade of Charlie Chaplin 
would fade away. But the men would 
wait till the aeroplanes had gone and that 
famous figure came waddling back to the 
screen. There he amused tired men newly 
come from the trenches, there he brought 
laughter to most of the twelve days that 
they had out of the line. 



A FAMOUS MAN 119 

He is gone from Behagnies now. He did 
not march in the retreat a little apart 
from the troops, with head bent for- 
ward and hand thrust in jacket, a flat- 
footed Napoleon : yet he is gone ; for no 
one would have left behind for the enemy 
so precious a thing as a Charlie Chaplin 
film. He is gone but he will return. He 
will come with his cane one day along that 
Arras road to the old hut in Behagnies ; 
and men dressed in brown will welcome 
him there again. 

He will pass beyond it through those 
desolate plains, and over the hills beyond 
them, beyond Bapaume. Far hamlets to 
the east will know his antics. 

And one day surely, in old familiar garb, 
without court dress, without removing his 
hat, armed with that flexible cane, he will 
walk over the faces of the Prussian Guard 
and, picking up the Kaiser by the collar, 
with infinite nonchalance in finger and 
thumb, will place him neatly in a prone 
position and solemnly sit on his chest. 



XXIV 
THE OASES OF DEATH 

WHILE the German guns were pound- 
ing Amiens and the battle of dull 
Prussianism against Liberty raged on, they 
buried Richthofen in the British lines. 

They had laid him in a large tent with 
his broken machine outside it. Thence 
British airmen carried him to the quiet 
cemetery, and he was buried among the 
cypresses in this old resting place of French 
generations just as though he had come 
there bringing no harm to France. 

Five wreaths were on his coffin, placed 
there by those who had fought against 
him up in the air. And under the wreaths 
on the coffin was spread the German flag. 

When the funeral service was over three 
volleys were fired by the escort, and a 
hundred aviators paid their last respects 

120 



THE OASES OF DEATH 

to the grave of their greatest enemy; 
for the chivalry that the Prussians have 
driven from earth and sea lives on in the 
blue spaces of the air. 

They buried Richthofen at evening, and 
the planes came droning home as they 
buried him, and the German guns roared 
on and guns answered, defending Amiens. 
And in spite of all, the cemetery had the 
air of quiet, remaining calm and aloof, as 
all French graveyards are. For they seem 
to have no part in the cataclysm that 
shakes all the world but them ; they seem 
to withdraw amongst memories and to be 
aloof from time, and, above all, to be quite 
untroubled by the war that rages to-day, 
upon which they appear to look out list- 
lessly from among their cypress and yew, 
and dimly, down a vista of centuries. They 
are very strange, these little oases of death 
that remain unmoved and green with their 
trees still growing, in the midst of a desola- 
tion as far as the eye can see, in which 
cities and villages and trees and hedges 



122 TALES OF WAR 

and farms and fields and churches are all 
gone, and where hugely broods a desert. 
It is as though Death, stalking up and down 
through France for four years, sparing 
nothing, had recognized for his own his 
little gardens, and had spared only them. 



XXV 
ANGLO-SAXON TYRANNY 

'T \ 7E need a sea," says Big- Admiral 
V V von Tirpitz, "freed of Anglo-Saxon 
tyranny." Unfortunately neither the Brit- 
ish Admiralty nor the American Navy 
permit us to know how much of the 
Anglo-Saxon tyranny is done by American 
destroyers and how much by British ships 
and even trawlers. It would interest both 
countries to know, if it could be known. 
But the Big-Admiral is unjust to France, 
for the French navy exerts a tyranny at 
sea that can by no means be overlooked, 
although naturally from her position in 
front of the mouth of the Elbe England 
practises the culminating insupportable 
tyranny of keeping the High Seas Fleet in 
the Kiel Canal. 

It is not I, but the Big-Admiral, who 

123 



124 TALES OF WAR 

chose the word tyranny as descriptive of 
the activities of the Anglo-Saxon navies. 
He was making a speech at Dusseldorf on 
May 25th and was reported in the Dussel- 
dorf er Nachrichten on May 27th. 

Naturally it does not seem like tyranny 
to us, even the contrary ; but for an ad- 
miral, ein Grosse-Admiral, lately command- 
ing a High Seas Fleet, it must have been 
more galling than we perhaps can credit 
to be confined in a canal. There was he, 
who should have been breasting the blue, 
or at any rate doing something salty and 
nautical, far out in the storms of that sea 
that the Germans call an Ocean, with the 
hurricane raging angrily in his whiskers and 
now and then wafting tufts of them aloft 
to white the halyards ; there was he con- 
strained to a command the duties of which 
however nobly he did them could be 
equally well carried out by any respectable 
bargee. He hoped for a piracy of which 
the Lusitania was merely a beginning; he 
looked for the bombardment of innumer- 



ANGLO-SAXON TYRANNY 125 

able towns ; he pictured slaughter in many 
a hamlet of fishermen ; he planned more 
than all those things of which U-boat 
commanders are guilty; he saw himself a 
murderous old man, terrible to seafarers, 
and a scourge of the coasts, and fancied 
himself chronicled in after years by such 
as told dark tales of Captain Kidd or the 
awful buccaneers ; but he followed in the 
end no more desperate courses than to 
sit and watch his ships on a wharf near 
Kiel like one of Jacob's night watchmen. 

No wonder that what appears to us no 
more than the necessary protection of 
women and children in seacoast towns 
from murder should be to him an intoler- 
able tyranny. No wonder that the guard- 
ing of travellers of the allied countries at 
sea, and even those of the neutrals, should 
be a most galling thing to the Big-Admiral's 
thwarted ambition, looking at it from the 
point of view of one who to white-whiskered 
age has retained the schoolboy's natural 
love of the black and yellow flag. A 



126 TALES OF WAR 

pirate, he would say, has as much right to 
live as wasps or tigers. The Anglo-Saxon 
navies, he might argue, have a certain code 
of rules for use at sea ; they let women get 
first into the boats, for instance, when 
ships are sinking, and they rescue drown- 
ing mariners when they can : no actual 
harm in all this, he would feel, though it 
would weaken you, as Hindenburg said of 
poetry ; but if all these little rules are 
tyrannously enforced on those who may 
think them silly, what is to become of the 
pirate? Where, if people like Beattie and 
Sims had always had their way, would be 
those rollicking tales of the jolly Spanish 
Main, and men walking the plank into the 
big blue sea, and long, low, rakish craft 
putting in to Indian harbours with a cargo 
of men and women all hung from the yard- 
arm ? A melancholy has come over the 
spirit of Big-Admiral von Tirpitz in the 
years he has spent in the marshes between 
the Elbe and Kiel, and in that melancholy 
he sees romance crushed ; he sees no more 



ANGLO-SAXON TYRANNY 127 

pearl earrings and little gold rings in the 
hold ; he sees British battleships spoiling 
the Spanish Main, and hateful American 
cruisers in the old Sargasso Sea ; he sees 
himself, alas, the last of all the pirates. 

Let him take comfort. There were al- 
ways pirates. And in spite of the tyranny 
of England and America, and of France, 
which the poor old man perplexed with his 
troubles forgot, there will be pirates still. 
Not many perhaps, but enough U-boats 
will always be able to slip through that 
tyrannous blockade to spread indiscrimi- 
nate slaughter amongst the travellers of 
any nation, enough to hand on the old 
traditions of murder at sea. And one day 
Captain Kidd, with such a bow as they used 
to make in ports of the Spanish Main, 
will take off his ancient hat, sweeping it 
low in Hell, and be proud to clasp the 
hand of the Lord of the Kiel Canal. 



XXVI 

MEMORIES 

"... f ar-off things 
And battles long ago." 

THOSE who live in an old house are 
necessarily more concerned with pay- 
ing the plumber, should his art be required, 
or choosing wall paper that does not clash 
with the chintzes, than with the traditions 
that may haunt its corridors. In Ireland, 
and no one knows how old that is, for the 
gods that lived there before the Red Branch 
came wrote few chronicles on the old grey 
Irish stones and wrote in their own language, 
in Ireland we are more concerned with 
working it so that Tim Flanagan gets the 
job he does be looking for. 

But in America those who remember 
Ireland remember her, very often, from old 
generations; maybe their grandfather mi- 

128 



MEMORIES 129 

grated, perhaps his grandfather, and Ire- 
land is remembered by old tales treasured 
among them. Now Tim Flanagan will 
not be remembered in a year's time when 
he has the job for which he has got us to 
agitate, and the jobberies that stir us move 
not the pen of History. 

But the tales that Irish generations 
hand down beyond the Atlantic have to be 
tales that are worth remembering. They 
are tales that have to stand the supreme 
test, tales that a child will listen to by the 
fireside of an evening, so that they go down 
with those early remembered evenings that 
are last of all to go of the memories of a 
lifetime. A tale that a child will listen to 
must have much grandeur. Any cheap 
stuff will do for us, bad journalism, and 
novels by girls that could get no other jobs ; 
but a child looks for those things in a tale 
that are simple and noble and epic, the 
things that Earth remembers. And so 
they tell, over there, tales of Sarsfield and 
of the old Irish Brigade ; they tell, of an 



130 TALES OF WAR 

evening, of Owen Roe O'Neill. And into 
those tales come the plains of Flanders 
again and the ancient towns of France, 
towns famous long ago and famous yet : 
let us rather think of them as famous names 
and not as the sad ruins we have seen, 
melancholy by day and monstrous in the 
moonlight. 

Many an Irishman who sails from Amer- 
ica for those historic lands knows that the 
old trees that stand there have their roots 
far down in soil once richened by Irish 
blood. When the Boyne was lost and won, 
and Ireland had lost her King, many an 
Irishman with all his wealth in a scabbard 
looked upon exile as his sovereign's court. 
And so they came to the lands of foreign 
kings, with nothing to offer for the hos- 
pitality that was given them but a sword ; 
and it usually was a sword with which kings 
were well content. Louis XV had many 
of them, and was glad to have them at 
Fontenoy ; the Spanish King admitted 
them to the Golden Fleece ; they defended 



MEMORIES 131 

Maria Theresa. Landen in Flanders and 
Cremona knew them. A volume were 
needed to tell of all those swords ; more 
than one Muse has remembered them. It 
was not disloyalty that drove them forth ; 
their King was gone, they followed, the 
oak was smitten and brown were the leaves 
of the tree. 

But no such mournful metaphor applies 
to the men who march to-day towards the 
plains where the "Wild Geese" were driven. 
They go with no country mourning them, 
but their whole land cheers them on ; they 
go to the inherited battlefields. And there 
is this difference in their attitude to kings, 
that those knightly Irishmen of old, driven 
homeless over-sea, appeared as exiles sup- 
pliant for shelter before the face of the 
Grand Monarch, and he, no doubt with 
exquisite French grace, gave back to them 
all they had lost except what was lost for- 
ever, salving so far as he could the in- 
justice suffered by each. But to-day when 
might, for its turn, is in the hands of de- 



TALES OF WAR 

mocracies, the men whose fathers built the 
Statue of Liberty have left their country 
to bring back an exiled king to his home, 
and to right what can be righted of the 
ghastly wrongs of Flanders. 

And if men's prayers are heard, as many 
say, old saints will hear old supplications 
going up by starlight with a certain wist- 
ful, musical intonation that has linked the 
towns of Limerick and Cork with the fields 
of Flanders before. 



XXVII 
THE MOVEMENT 

FOR many years Eliphaz Griggs was 
comparatively silent. Not that he 
did not talk on all occasions whenever he 
could find hearers, he did that at great 
length ; but for many years he addressed 
no public meeting, and was no part of the 
normal life of the northeast end of Hyde 
Park or Trafalgar Square. And then one 
day he was talking in a public house where 
he had gone to talk on the only subject that 
was dear to him. He waited, as was his 
custom, until five or six men were present, 
and then he began. " Ye're all damned, 
I'm saying, damned from the day you were 
born. Your portion is Tophet." 

And on that day there happened what 
had never happened in his experience be- 

133 



134 TALES OF WAR 

fore. Men used to listen in a tolerant way, 
and say little over their beer, for that is the 
English custom ; and that would be all. 
But to-day a man rose up with flashing 
eyes and went over to Eliphaz and gripped 
him by the hand: "They're all damned," 
said the stranger. 

That was the turning point in the life 
of Eliphaz. Up to that moment he had 
been a lonely crank, and men thought he 
was queer; but now there were two of 
them and he became a Movement. A 
Movement in England may do what it 
likes : there was a Movement, before the 
War, for spoiling tulips in Kew Gardens 
and breaking church windows ; it had its 
run like the rest. 

The name of Eliphaz's new friend was 
Ezekiel Pirn : and they drew up rules for 
their Movement almost at once ; and very 
soon country inns knew Eliphaz no more. 
And for some while they missed him where 
he used to drop in of an evening to tell them 
they were all damned ; and then a man 



THE MOVEMENT 135 

proved one day that the earth was flat, and 
they all forgot Eliphaz. 

But Eliphaz went to Hyde Park and 
Ezekiel Pirn went with him, and there you 
would see them close to the Marble Arch 
on any fine Sunday afternoon, preaching 
their Movement to the people of London. 

'You are all damned," said Eliphaz. 

'Your portion shall be damnation for ever- 
lasting." 

"All damned," added Ezekiel. 
Eliphaz was the orator. He would pic- 
ture Hell to you as it really is. He made 
you see pretty much what it will be like 
to wriggle and turn and squirm, and never 
escape from burning. But Ezekiel Pirn, 
though he seldom said more than three 
words, uttered those words with such 
alarming sincerity and had such a sure con- 
viction shining in his eyes that searched 
right in your face as he said them, and his 
long hair waved so weirdly as his head shot 
forward when he said "You're all damned", 
that Ezekiel Pirn brought home to you that 



136 TALES OF WAR 

the vivid descriptions of Eliphaz really 
applied to you. 

People who lead bad lives get their sensi- 
bilities hardened. These did not care very 
much what Eliphaz said. But girls at 
school, and several governesses, and even 
some young clergy, were very much af- 
fected. Eliphaz Griggs and Ezekiel Pirn 
seemed to bring Hell so near to you. You 
could almost feel it baking the Marble Arch 
from two to four on Sundays. And at four 
o'clock the Surbiton Branch of the Inter- 
national Anarchists used to come along, 
and Eliphaz Griggs and Ezekiel Pirn would 
pack up their flag and go, for the pitch be- 
longed to the Surbiton people till six; and 
the crank Movements punctiliously recog- 
nize each other's rights. If they fought 
among themselves, which is quite unthink- 
able, the police would run them in ; it is 
the one thing that an anarchist in England 
may never do. 

When the War came the two speakers 
doubled their efforts. The way they looked 



THE MOVEMENT 137 

at it was that here was a counter-attraction 
taking people's minds off the subject of 
their own damnation just as they had got 
them to think about it. Eliphaz worked 
as he had never worked before ; he spared 
nobody ; but it was still Ezekiel Pirn who 
somehow brought it most home to them. 

One fine spring afternoon Eliphaz Griggs 
was speaking at his usual place and time ; 
he had wound himself up wonderfully. 
"You are damned," he was saying, "for 
ever and ever and ever. Your sins have 
found you out. Your filthy lives will be as 
fuel round you and shall burn for ever and 
ever." 

"Look here," said a Canadian soldier in 
the crowd, "we shouldn't allow that in 
Ottawa." 

"What?" asked an English girl. 

"Why, telling us we're all damned like 
that," he said. 

"Oh, this is England," she said. "They 
may all say what they like here." 

"You are all damned," said Ezekiel, 



138 TALES OF WAR 

jerking forward his head and shoulders till 
his hair flapped out behind. "All, all, all 
damned." 

"I'm damned if I am," said the Canadian 
soldier. 

"Ah," said Ezekiel, and a sly look came 
into his face. 

Eliphaz flamed on. :< Your sins are re- 
membered. Satan shall grin at you. He 
shall heap cinders on you for ever and ever. 
Woe to you, filthy livers. Woe to you, 
sinners. Hell is your portion. There shall 
be none to grieve for you. You shall dwell 
in torment for ages. None shall be spared, 
not one. Woe everlasting .... Oh, I beg 
pardon, gentlemen, I'm sure." For the 
Pacifists' League had been kept waiting 
three minutes. It was their turn to-day at 
four. 



XXVIII 

NATURE'S CAD 

THE claim of Professor Grotius Jan Beek 
to have discovered, or learned, the 
language of the greater apes has been dem- 
onstrated clearly enough. He is not the 
original discoverer of the fact that they 
have what may be said to correspond with 
a language ; nor is he the first man to have 
lived for some while in the jungle protected 
by wooden bars, with a view to acquiring 
some knowledge of the meaning of the 
various syllables that gorillas appear to 
utter. If so crude a collection of sounds, 
amounting to less than a hundred words, 
if words they are, may be called a language, 
it may be admitted that the Professor has 
learned it, as his recent experiments show. 
What he has not proved is his assertion 
that he has actually conversed with a 

139 



140 TALES OF WAR 

gorilla, or by signs, or grunts, or any means 
whatever obtained an insight, as he put it, 
into its mentality, or, as we should put it, 
its point of view. This Professor Beek 
claims to have done ; and though he gives 
us a certain plausible corroboration of a 
kind which makes his story appear likely, 
it should be borne in mind that it is not of 
the nature of proof. 

The Professor's story is briefly that hav- 
ing acquired this language, which nobody 
that has witnessed his experiments will call 
in question, he went back to the jungle for 
a week, living all the time in the ordinary 
explorer's cage of the Blik pattern. 
Towards the very end of the week a big 
male gorilla came by, and the Professor 
attracted it by the one word "Food." It 
came, he says, close to the cage, and seemed 
prepared to talk but became very angry on 
seeing a man there, and beat the cage and 
would say nothing. The Professor says 
that he asked it why it was angry. He 
admits that he had learned no more than 



NATURE'S CAD 141 

forty words of this language, but believes 
that there are perhaps thirty more. Much 
however is expressed, as he says, by mere 
intonation. Anger, for instance ; and 
scores of allied words, such as terrible, 
frightful, kill, whether noun, verb or ad- 
jective, are expressed, he says, by a mere 
growl. Nor is there any word for "Why", 
but queries are signified by the inflexion 
of the voice. 

When he asked it why it was angry the 
gorilla said that men killed him, and added 
a noise that the professor said was evi- 
dently meant to allude to guns. The only 
word used, he says, in this remark of the 
gorilla's was the word that signified "man." 
The sentence as understood by the pro- 
fessor amounted to "Man kill me. Guns." 
But the word "kill" was represented simply 
by a snarl, "me" by slapping its chest, and 
"guns" as I have explained was only repre- 
sented by a noise. The Professor believes 
that ultimately a word for guns may be 
evolved out of that noise, but thinks that 



142 TALES OF WAR 

it will take many centuries, and that if 
during that time guns should cease to be 
in use, this stimulus being withdrawn, the 
word will never be evolved at all, nor of 
course will it be needed. 

The Professor tried, by evincing interest, 
ignorance, and incredulity, and even in- 
dignation, to encourage the gorilla to say 
more ; but to his disappointment, all the 
more intense after having exchanged that 
one word of conversation with one of the 
beasts, the gorilla only repeated what it 
had said, and beat on the cage again. For 
half an hour this went on, the Professor 
showing every sign of sympathy, the gorilla 
raging and beating upon the cage. 

It was half an hour of the most intense 
excitement to the Professor, during which 
time he saw the realization of dreams that 
many considered crazy, glittering as it were 
within his grasp, and all the while this 
ridiculous gorilla would do nothing but 
repeat the mere shred of a sentence and 
beat the cage with its great hands ; and 



NATURE'S CAD 143 

the heat of course was intense. And by 
the end of the half hour the excitement and 
the heat seem to have got the better of the 
Professor's temper, and he waved the dis- 
gusting brute angrily away with a gesture 
that probably was not much less impatient 
than the gorilla's own. And at that the 
animal suddenly became voluble. He beat 
more furiously than ever upon the cage 
and slipped his great fingers through the 
bars, trying to reach the Professor, and 
poured out volumes of ape-chatter. 

Why, why did men shoot at him, he 
asked. He made himself terrible, there- 
fore men ought to love him. That was 
the whole burden of what the Professor 
calls its argument. "Me, me terrible," 
two slaps on the chest and then a growl. 
"Man love me." And then the emphatic 
negative word, and the sound that meant 
guns, and sudden furious rushes at the 
cage to try to get at the Professor. 

The gorilla, Professor Beek explains, 
evidently admired only strength ; when- 



144 TALES OF WAR 

ever he said "I make myself terrible to 
Man," a sentence he often repeated, he 
drew himself up and thrust out his huge 
chest and bared his frightful teeth ; and 
certainly, the Professor says, there was 
something terribly grand about the menac- 
ing brute. "Me terrible," he repeated 
again and again, "Me terrible. Sky, sun, 
stars with me. Man love me. Man love 
me. No?" It meant that all the great 
forces of nature Cassis ted him and his terrible 
teeth, which he gnashed repeatedly, and 
that therefore man should love him, and 
he opened his great jaws wide as he said 
this, showing all the brutal force of them. 

There was to my mind a genuine ring in 
Professor Beek's story, because he was 
obviously so much more concerned, and 
really troubled, by the dreadful depravity 
of this animal's point of view, or mentality 
as he called it, than he was concerned with 
whether or not we believed what he had 
said. 

And I mentioned that there was a cir- 



NATURE'S CAD 145 

cumstance in his story of a plausible and 
even corroborative nature. It is this. 
Professor Beek, who noticed at the time a 
bullet wound in the tip of the gorilla's left 
ear, by means of which it was luckily 
identified, put his analysis of its mentality 
in writing and showed it to several others, 
before he had any way of accounting for 
the beast having such a mind. 

Long afterwards it was definitely as- 
certained that this animal had been caught 
when young on the slopes of Kilimanjaro 
and trained and even educated, so far as 
such things are possible, by an eminent 
German Professor, a persona grata at the 
Court of Berlin. 



XXIX 

THE HOME OF HERR SCHNITZEL- 
HAASER 

THE guns in the town of Greinstein 
were faintly audible. The family of 
Schnitzelhaaser lived alone there in mourn- 
ing, an old man and old woman. They 
never went out or saw any one, for they 
knew they could not speak as though they 
did not mourn. They feared that their 
secret would escape them. They had never 
cared for the war that the War Lord made. 
They no longer cared what he did with it. 
They never read his speeches ; they never 
hung out flags when he ordered flags : they 
hadn't the heart to. 

They had had four sons. 

The lonely old couple would go as far as 
the shop for food. Hunger stalked behind 
them. They just beat hunger every day, 

146 



HERR SCHNITZELHAASER 147 

and so saw evening : but there was nothing 
to spare. Otherwise they did not go out 
at all. Hunger had been coming slowly 
nearer of late. They had nothing but the 
ration, and the ration was growing smaller. 
They had one pig of their own, but the law 
said you might not kill it. So the pig was 
no good to them. 

They used to go and look at that pig 
sometimes when hunger pinched. But 
more than that they did not dare to con- 
template. 

Hunger came nearer and nearer. The 
war was going to end by the first of July. 
The War Lord was going to take Paris on 
this day and that would end the war at 
once. But then the war was always going 
to end. It was going to end in 1914, and 
their four sons were to have come home 
when the leaves fell. The War Lord had 
promised that. And even if it did end, that 
would not bring their four sons home now. 
So what did it matter what the War Lord 
said. 



148 TALES OF WAR 

It was thoughts like these that they 
knew they had to conceal. It was because 
of thoughts like these that they did not 
trust themselves to go out and see other 
people, for they feared that by their looks 
if by nothing else, or by their silence or 
perhaps their tears, they might imply a 
blasphemy against the All Highest. And 
hunger made one so hasty. What might 
one not say? And so they stayed in- 
doors. 

But now. What would happen now? 
The War Lord was coming to Greinstein in 
order to hear the guns. One officer of the 
staff was to be billeted in their house. And 
what would happen now? 

They talked the whole thing over. They 
must struggle and make an effort. The 
officer would be there for one evening. 
He would leave in the morning quite early 
in order to make things ready for the return 
to Potsdam : he had charge of the imperial 
car. So for one evening they must be 
merry. They would suppose, it was Herr 



HERR SCHNITZELHAASER 149 

Schnitzelhaaser's suggestion, they would 
think all the evening that Belgium and 
France and Luxemburg all attacked the 
Fatherland, and that the Kaiser, utterly 
unprepared, quite unprepared, called on the 
Germans to defend their land against 
Belgium. 

Yes, the old woman could imagine that ; 
she could think it all the evening. 

And then, it was no use not being cheer- 
ful altogether, then one must imagine 
a little more, just for the evening : it would 
come quite easy ; one must think that the 
four boys were alive. 

Hans too ? (Hans was the youngest.) 

Yes, all four. Just for the evening. 

But if the officer asks ? 

He will not ask. What are four soldiers ? 

So it was all arranged ; and at evening the 
officer came. He brought his own rations, 
so hunger came no nearer. Hunger just 
lay down outside the door and did not 
notice the officer. 

At his supper the officer began to talk. 



150 TALES OF WAR 

The Kaiser himself, he said, was at the 
Schartzhaus. 

"So," said Herr Schnitzelhaaser ; "just 
over the way.'* So close. Such an honour. 

And indeed the shadow of the Schartz- 
haus darkened their garden in the morning. 

It was such an honour, said Frau Schnitz- 
elhaaser too. And they began to praise the 
Kaiser. So great a War Lord, she said ; 
the most glorious war there had ever been. 

Of course, said the officer, it would end 
on the first of July. 

Of course, said Frau Schnitzelhaaser. 
And so great an admiral, too. One must 
remember that also. And how fortunate 
we were to have him : one must not forget 
that. Had it not been for him the crafty 
Belgians would have attacked the Father- 
land, but they were struck down before 
they could do it. So much better to pre- 
vent a bad deed like that than merely to 
punish after. So wise. And had it not 
been for him, if it had not been for him . . . 

The old man saw that she was breaking 



HERR SCHNITZELHAASER 151 

down and hastily he took up that feverish 
praise. Feverish it was, for their hunger 
and bitter loss affected their minds no less 
than illness does, and the things they did 
they did hastily and in temperately. His 
praise of the War Lord raced on as the 
officer ate. He spoke of him as of those 
that benefit man, as of monarchs who 
bring happiness to their people. And now, 
he said, he is here in the Schartzhaus beside 
us, listening to the guns just like a common 
soldier. 

Finally the guns, as he spoke, coughed 
beyond ominous hills. Contentedly the 
officer went on eating. He suspected noth- 
ing of the thoughts his host and hostess were 
hiding. At last he went upstairs to bed. 

As fierce exertion is easy to the fevered, 
so they had spoken ; and it wears them, so 
they were worn. The old woman wept 
when the officer went out of hearing. But 
old Herr Schnitzelhaaser picked up a big 
butcher's knife. "I will bear it no more," 
he said. 



152 TALES OF WAR 

His wife watched him in silence as he 
went away with his knife. Out of the house 
he went and into the night. Through the 
open door she saw nothing; all was dark; 
even the Schartzhaus, where all was gay 
to-night, stood dark for fear of aeroplanes. 
The old woman waited in silence. 

When Herr Schnitzelhaaser returned 
there was blood on his knife. 

"What have you done?" the old woman 
asked him quite calmly. "I have killed our 
pig," he said. 

She broke out then, all the more recklessly 
for the long restraint of the evening ; the 
officer must have heard her. 

"We are lost ! We are lost !" she cried. 
"We may not kill our pig. Hunger has 
made you mad. You have ruined us." 

"I will bear it no longer," he said. "I 
have killed our pig." 

"But they will never let us eat it," she 
cried. "Oh, you have ruined us!" 

"If you did not dare to kill our pig," he 
said, "why did you not stop me when you 



HERR SCHNITZELHAASER 153 

saw me go? You saw me go with the 
knife?" 

"I thought," she said, "you were going 
to kill the Kaiser." 



XXX 

A DEED OF MERCY 

AS Hindenburg and the Kaiser came 
down, as we read, from Mont 
d'Hiver, during the recent offensive, they 
saw on the edge of a crater two wounded 
British soldiers. The Kaiser ordered that 
they should be cared for : their wounds 
were bound up and they were given brandy, 
and brought round from unconsciousness. 
That is the German account of it, and it 
may well be true. It was a kindly act. 

Probably had it not been for this the two 
men would have died among those desolate 
craters ; no one would have known, and no 
one could have been blamed for it. 

The contrast of this spark of imperial 
kindness against the gloom of the back- 
ground of the war that the Kaiser made is 
a pleasant thing to see, even though it 
154 



A DEED OF MERCY 155 

illuminates for only a moment the savage 
darkness in which our days are plunged. 
It was a kindness that probably will long 
be remembered to him. Even we, his 
enemies, will remember it. And who knows 
but that when most he needs it his reward 
for the act will be given him. 

For Judas, they say, once in his youth, 
gave his cloak, out of compassion, to a 
shivering beggar, who sat shaken with ague, 
in rags, in bitter need. And the years went 
by and Judas forgot his deed. And long 
after, in Hell, Judas they say was given one 
day's respite at the end of every year be- 
cause of this one kindness he had done so 
long since in his youth. And every year 
he goes, they say, for a day and cools him- 
self among the Arctic bergs ; once every 
year for century after century. 

Perhaps some sailor on watch on a misty 
evening blown far out of his course away to 
the north saw something ghostly once on 
an iceberg floating by, or heard some voice 
in the dimness that seemed like the voice 



156 TALES OF WAR 

of man, and came home with this weird 
story. And perhaps, as the story passed 
from lip to lip, men found enough justice 
in it to believe it true. So it came down 
the centuries. 

Will seafarers ages hence on dim October 
evenings, or on nights when the moon is 
ominous through mist, red and huge and 
uncanny, see a lonely figure sometimes on 
the loneliest part of the sea, far north of 
where the Lusitania sank, gathering all the 
cold it can? Will they see it hugging a 
crag of iceberg wan as itself, helmet, cuirass 
and ice pale-blue in the mist together? 
Will it look towards them with ice-blue 
eyes through the mist, and will they ques- 
tion it, meeting on those bleak seas ? Will 
it answer or will the North Wind howl 
like voices ? Will the cry of seals be heard, 
and ice floes grinding, and strange birds lost 
upon the wind that night, or will it speak to 
them in those distant years and tell them 
how it sinned, betraying man ? 

It will be a grim, dark story in that lonely 



A DEED OF MERCY 157 

part of the sea, when he confesses to sailors, 
blown too far north, the dreadful thing he 
plotted against man. The date on which 
he is seen will be told from sailor to sailor. 
Queer taverns of distant harbours will know 
it well. Not many will care to be at sea 
that day, and few will risk being driven by 
stress of weather on the Kaiser's night to 
the bergs of the haunted part of sea. 

And yet for all the grimness of the pale- 
blue phantom, with cuirass and helmet and 
eyes shimmering on deadly icebergs, and 
yet for all the sorrow of the wrong he did 
against man, the women drowned and the 
children, and all the good ships gone, yet 
will the horrified mariners meeting him in 
the mist grudge him no moment of the day 
he has earned, or the coolness he gains from 
the bergs, because of the kindness he did to 
the wounded men. For the mariners in 
their hearts are kindly men, and what a 
soul gains from kindness will seem to them 
well deserved. 



XXXI 

LAST SCENE OF ALL 

AFTER John Calleron was hit he carried 
on in a kind of twilight of the mind. 
Things grew dimmer and calmer; harsh 
outlines of events became blurred ; mem- 
ories came to him ; there was a singing in his 
ears like far-off bells. Things seemed more 
beautiful than they had a while ago ; to him 
it was for all the world like evening after 
some quiet sunset, when lawns and shrubs 
and woods and some old spire look lovely 
in the late light, and one reflects on past 
days. Thus he carried on, seeing things 
dimly. And what is sometimes called "the 
roar of battle ", those aerial voices that 
snarl and moan and whine and rage at 
soldiers, had grown dimmer too. It all 
seemed further away, and littler, as far 
things are. He still heard the bullets : 

158 



LAST SCENE OF ALL 159 

there is something so violently and intensely 
sharp in the snap of passing bullets at short 
ranges that you hear them in deepest 
thought, and even in dreams. He heard 
them, tearing by, above all things else. 
The rest seemed fainter and dimmer, and 
smaller and further away. 

He did not think he was very badly hit, 
but nothing seemed to matter as it did a 
while ago. Yet he carried on. 

And then he opened his eyes very wide 
and found he was back in London again in 
an underground train. He knew it at once 
by the look of it. He had made hundreds 
of journeys, long ago, by those trains. He 
knew by the dark, outside, that it had not 
yet left London; but what was odder than 
that, if one stopped to think of it, was that 
he knew exactly where it was going. It was 
the train that went away out into the 
country where he used to live as a boy. 
He was sure of that without thinking. 

When he began to think how he came to 
be there he remembered the war as a very 



160 TALES OF WAR 

far-off thing. He supposed he had been 
unconscious a very long time. He was all 
right now. 

Other people were sitting beside him on 
the same seat. They all seemed like 
people he remembered a very long time 
ago. In the darkness opposite, beyond the 
windows of the train, he could see their 
reflections clearly. He looked at the re- 
flections but could not quite remember. 

A woman was sitting on his left. She 
was quite young. She was more like some 
one that he most deeply remembered than 
all the others were. He gazed at her, and 
tried to clear his mind. 

He did not turn and stare at her, but he 
quietly watched her reflection before him 
hi the dark. Every detail of her dress, her 
young face, her hat, the little ornaments she 
wore, were minutely clear before him, look- 
ing out of the dark. So contented she looked 
you would say she was untouched by war. 

As he gazed at the clear calm face and the 
dress that seemed neat though old and, like 



LAST SCENE OF ALL 161 

all things, so far away, his mind grew clearer 
and clearer. It seemed to him certain it 
was the face of his mother, but from thirty 
years ago, out of old memories and one 
picture. He felt sure it was his mother as 
she had been when he was very small. And 
yet after thirty years how could he know? 
He puzzled to try and be quite sure. But 
how she came to be there, looking like that, 
out of those oldest memories, he did not 
think of at all. 

He seemed to be hugely tired by many 
things and did not want to think. Yet he 
was very happy, more happy even than tired 
men just come home all new to comfort. 

He gazed and gazed at the face in the 
dark. And then he felt quite sure. 

He was about to speak. Was she looking 
at him? Was she watching him, he won- 
dered. He glanced for the first time to his 
own reflection in that clear row of faces. 

His own reflection was not there, but 
blank dark showed between his two neigh- 
bours. And then he knew he was dead. 



XXXII 
OLD ENGLAND 

TOWARDS winter's end on a high, big, 
bare down, in the south of England, 
John Plowman was ploughing. He was 
ploughing the brown field at the top of the 
hill, good soil of the clay ; a few yards lower 
down was nothing but chalk, with shallow 
flinty soil and steep to plough ; so they let 
briars grow there. For generations his 
forbears had ploughed on the top of that 
hill. John did not know how many. The 
hills were very old; it might have been 
always. 

He scarcely looked to see if his furrow 
was going straight. The work he was do- 
ing was so much in his blood that he could 
almost feel if furrows were straight or not. 
Year after year they moved on the same old 
landmarks ; thorn trees and briars mostly 

162 



OLD ENGLAND 163 

guided the plough, where they stood on the 
untamed land beyond ; the thorn trees grew 
old at their guiding, and still the furrows 
varied not by the breadth of a hoof-mark. 

John, as he ploughed, had leisure to 
meditate on much besides the crops ; he 
knew so much of the crops that his thoughts 
could easily run free from them ; he used to 
meditate on who they were that lived in 
briar and thorn tree, and danced as folk 
said all through midsummer night, and 
sometimes blessed and sometimes harmed 
the crops ; for he knew that in Old Eng- 
land were wonderful ancient things, odder 
and older things than many folks knew. 
And his eyes had leisure to see much be- 
side the furrows, for he could almost feel 
the furrows going straight. 

One day at his ploughing, as he watched 
the thorn ahead, he saw the whole big hill 
besides, looking south, and the lands below 
it ; one day he saw in the bright sun of late 
winter a horseman riding the road through 
the wide lands below. The horseman shone 



164 TALES OF WAR 

as he rode, and wore white linen over what 
was shining, and on the linen was a big 
red cross. "One of them knights," John 
Plowman said to himself or his horse, "go- 
ing to them crusades." And he went on 
with his ploughing all that day satisfied, 
and remembered what he had seen for years, 
and told his son. 

For there is in England, and there always 
was, mixed with the needful things that feed 
or shelter the race, the wanderer-feeling for 
romantic causes that runs deep and strange 
through the other thoughts, as the Gulf 
Stream runs through the sea. Sometimes 
generations of John Plowman's family 
would go by and no high romantic cause 
would come to sate that feeling. They 
would work on just the same though a little 
sombrely, as though some good thing had 
been grudged them. And then the Cru- 
sades had come, and John Plowman had 
seen the Red Cross knight go by, riding 
towards the sea in the morning, and John 
Plowman was satisfied. 



OLD ENGLAND 165 

Some generations later a man of the same 
name was ploughing the same hill. They 
still ploughed the brown clay at the top and 
left the slope wild, though there were many 
changes. And the furrows were wonder- 
fully straight still. And half he watched a 
thorn tree ahead as he ploughed and half 
he took in the whole hill sloping south and 
the wide lands below it, far beyond which 
was the sea. They had a railway now down 
in the valley. The sunlight glittering near 
the end of winter shone on a train that was 
marked with great white squares and red 
crosses on them. 

John Plowman stopped his horses and 
looked at the train. "An ambulance 
train," he said, "coming up from the coast." 
He thought of the lads he knew and won- 
dered if any were there. He pitied the men 
in that train and envied them. And then 
there came to him the thought of England's 
cause and of how those men had upheld it, 
at sea and in crumbling cities. He thought 
of the battle whose echoes reached some- 



166 TALES OF WAR 

times to that field, whispering to furrows 
and thorn trees that had never heard 
them before. He thought of the accursed 
tyrant's cruel might, and of the lads that 
had faced it. He saw the romantic splen- 
dour of England's cause. He was old but 
had seen the glamour for which each 
generation looked. Satisfied in his heart 
and cheered with a new content he went 
on with his age-old task in the business of 
man with the hills. 



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